Chances are, you’ve come across Catherine McCord before. One part family food pioneer, one part tv host, one part entrepreneur – she’s definitely what you’d call a triple threat. Passionate about creating healthy, simple recipes for the whole family, she has built a tremendous following for her school lunches on her family-friendly food site, Weelicious. Her youngest of her three children Gemma, is mesmerizing in her daily Instagram story smoothie videos and her family cooking videos that feature her kids as equally involved in the prep as she is, are enviable to say the least. The demand for getting her recipes delivered to the followers homes led Catherine to launch One Potato, an at-home meal delivery service for the whole family to enjoy. We wanted to find out more about how this mama keeps it all together while promoting such a strong family unit. Read on…
Catherine, you are one of our favorite mamas to follow on social media. You make healthy eating look so easy! How did you get started? Were you always interested in food?
I’ve been fascinated with food and food culture since I was very young. As a kid, I used to go to U-Pick farms with my grandparents and would can fruits and vegetables with them. I started modeling at 13 which took me all around the world, exposing my Kentucky palate to a seemingly endless variety of new foods and flavors. That part was definitely the most exciting part of that time of my life and made the biggest impression on me. I loved learning how and why people eat the way they do in different countries. My passion for food kept growing and eventually, I went to culinary school in New York City. After I had my first child I realized that while I could make a gourmet meal, I had no idea how to feed a child, and at the time, I was surprised to find that there were no comprehensive guides on the subject of feeding out there to help new moms. I started doing a lot of research and created a blog to share my recipes. The website led me to write two cookbooks, Weelicious and Weelicious Lunches, which were designed to be resources for parents to make feeding their kids an easy and fun experience.
We’re forever fascinated by what great eaters your kids are and could use some tips! What advice would you give to moms to a) start kids off on the right foot and b) inspire picky eaters to broaden their diets?
First and foremost, breathe. Parents tend to be way too hard on their kids (and themselves) when they reject new foods. Feeding is a lifelong journey and every person is naturally going to have different likes and dislikes, and go through stages, so you have to be patient, never give up and keep trying different approaches. When it comes to babies and first foods, it’s helpful to keep in mind that babies have significantly more tastebuds than adults do and so new flavors can be much more intense for them. Also, it can take at least 10 attempts for a little one to get used to a new flavor, so if your baby rejects a food you’re excited to give them, keep trying. Starting from an early age, I’ve always found getting my kids involved in both shopping for food and cooking to be the easiest way to inspire them to try new things. Making them active participants in the process rather than passive, where the first contact they have with their meal is when it’s put down in front of them to eat, can make all the difference in making a great eater. My kids shop with me at the farmers’ market where the farmers and vendors are only too happy to engage with kids and offer them samples to try. You can also plant a small garden with your kids to show them what’s involved in growing food, how to nurture a plant and finally, how to create a recipe with what they grow. Eating together as a family is a big one too — monkey see, monkey do. If they see you enjoying asparagus, chances are that they will eventually be more willing to try it themselves. I also like demonstrating fun ways to eat different foods — using toothpicks instead of a fork, coming up with games, etc — to make eating more interesting and relatable to little ones.
… it can take at least 10 attempts for a little one to get used to a new flavor, so if your baby rejects a food you’re excited to give them, keep trying.
Do you modify your meals for each child in your family or do you follow the “one dinner for all” mentality?
I don’t think moms should be short order cooks, catering to the mealtime wants of each family member. We’re all so busy, who has time to make a different meal for each person!? It’s maddening and I think it sets an unhealthy precedent for what dinner at home should be. My motto has always been “One Family, One Meal.” In fact, it’s the title of my first cookbook. We all eat the same thing for dinner and if one of the kids is so averse to what the family is having, they know they can grab something simple from the fridge or pantry like a yogurt, vegetable or piece of fruit. Having said that, their are of course dietary preferences that are mandatory to accommodate. For example, my son has been a vegetarian for 4 years, so I try to make sure he gets plenty of plant based protein whenever I’m making fish, chicken, etc. for the rest of the family.
There are so many food delivery services today. What do you think makes One Potato stand out above the rest and has made it so successful?
I can answer that in one word: family.
By way of a bit of backstory, long before there were any meal kit companies, Weelicious readers kept asking me if I could just send them my recipes already made. At first it would make me chuckle, but as time went on and that request kept coming, it made me increasingly sensitive — even more so than I already was — to just how stressful mealtime really was for parents. Then, after meal kit services started appearing in the marketplace, Weelicious readers still kept asking me to do one as they had tried the other services and found that they took too long (an hour or more to get dinner on the table) and their kids wouldn’t eat the food. Having spent almost a decade at that point building Weelicious, I realized that there couldn’t be a more obvious or natural extension of my business.
The mealtime needs of families are universally common. They want to get a healthy dinner on the table quickly and economically. They want everyone in the family to want to eat what they make. They don’t need a meal kit where they get a box full of ingredients where each one has to be prepped and the main purpose is learning how to cook. Simply put, for a meal kit to work for a family, it must satisfy a need, not a want. One Potato is dedicated exclusively to meeting those very real needs.
It’s funny because we launched One Potato the day I gave birth to my youngest daughter, Gemma, and as a mom of three I couldn’t live without it. Whenever I say that, some people will say, “but you’re a professional cook, why do you need a meal kit service?” My reasons are the same as any other parent, I simply don’t have the time. Even with my culinary background, I couldn’t get a meal from scratch on the table as fast as I do with One Potato.
Almost all of the ingredients come semi- prepared — meaning we ship our house made sauces and dressings already made, most vegetables are pre-cut, etc. — so they always take around 30 minutes or less to prepare. We do child-size portions and pricing, so we can accommodate any size family’s budget and eliminate waste. We’re organic because it’s important to us and our customers, but we still price ourselves very close to the companies who are not organic, which is a big deal. But even beyond being a help with time, budget and remaining health conscious, we built out every aspect of the company to reflect family. Knowing that kids who actively participate in the mealtime process become better eaters, we ship our meals with tips on how to get them involved in helping you make them. We also design most recipes to be as DIY as possible, so if a family member has an aversion to a certain ingredient they can leave it out of their serving. We just introduced One Potato Family Favorites, so in addition to the 5 weekly seasonal meal choices, families can substitute in three of our most popular tried and true recipes which are always available in the event that we have something on our menu that might not be the best fit for your family. We all remember being kids who went right for the prize in the bottom of the cereal or Cracker Jack box, so one of my favorite things is that we add a FREE roll of homemade organic cookie dough in every box.
We love following your daily #smoothieproject on your Instagram stories. We feel overwhelmed by the variety of supplements and vitamins that we could add to give us the most health benefits. What is the best resource for discovering what may be right for you and your family?
You’re so sweet! The Smoothie Project started after my son had been experiencing near constant nausea and feeling generally unwell for months. After his doctor could find nothing wrong, I took things into my own hands and looked to diet. I suspected that I was giving him too much bread and dairy every morning for breakfast and then expecting him to go to school and feel good all day. To give my son some choice and control in what was going to be a radical departure in our breakfast routine, I created a sheet with every smoothie ingredient I could think of and started giving it to him and my oldest daughter at night so they could circle what they wanted in their smoothie the next morning. Within weeks of starting smoothies for breakfast, my son felt better. It was amazing to witness. We’ve been doing it every day for almost 2 years now. It is definitely easy to get overwhelmed with all of the supplements out there so I always suggest starting with a few basic ingredients and experimenting slowly with different ones as you go. My goal is to get a fruit, vegetable and protein in each glass, so I always add hemp seeds or chia seeds which have a lot of beneficial elements beyond protein and especially bee pollen so we cut our chances of getting sick, as it’s great for boosting immunity, seasonal allergies as well as being high in protein. The rest of what you add is up to you and your cravings!
If mamas could incorporate a few superfoods into their diets, what would you recommend? Why?
I’m a major fan of collagen peptides (my favorite brand is Vital Proteins). I add it to my coffee, yogurt and/or smoothie every single day. It’s amazing for growing and strengthening hair, skin and nails. My hair and nails have never been as healthy as the are now.
Dark leafy greens are incredibly important for getting iron into our bodies. I add Greens Powder (I love Green Vibrance brand) to my smoothies and/or eat some sort of salad or sautéed greens once or twice a day like kale, arugula or spinach.
I’m also a big fan of probiotic foods like kefir, kimchi, yogurt and more for keeping your digestive tract healthy and immune system support. I try and eat probiotic-rich foods once or twice a day.
Fall is one of our favorite times at the Farmer’s Market and we know you visit one weekly as well. What are your tips for finding the best produce?
I have been going to my farmers’ market for almost two decades and I have a few tips. For starters, once you find a farmers’ market you love, you’ll notice certain people who are there literally every time you go, rain or shine. These people usually know the market and all its vendors extremely well and are only too happy to tell you about whose produce they love and why. I know because I am one of those people! Also, make relationships with the farmers and vendors. It is so rewarding and important to talk to the people who grow your food. You learn so much and pretty soon feel so much more connected with what you are putting in your body. I’ve been going for years and now know who has the best of the best.
What or whom has been instrumental in growing your businesses?
My husband is my greatest advisor. He’s been with me since the spark for both businesses and sometimes I think he knows my brands better than I do. He loves food, which helps, and he’s incredibly visual and creative, so he gives me a unique perspective. He is never afraid to tell me when he thinks something stinks, but he’s a problem solver so he doesn’t just criticize (lovingly, always!), he comes with solutions. And I know he’s always got my best interests at heart. My One Potato partners, Chris and Jenna, better known as my work husband and wife, are two of the most talented, kind people I know. There’s never a task that’s too big or small for any of us. We all roll up our sleeves and just dig in.
You are constantly producing, whether it be content for your blog, videos for your instagram or recipes for your boxes. Do you dedicate certain days to your individual businesses? How exactly do you manage your workflow?
To be totally frank, it’s not easy. I try to manage it well but I find that there are never enough hours in the day. We have regularly scheduled meetings for One Potato throughout the week that never move. I shoot Facebook and Instagram Live twice a week at set times and do the video production, photography for Weelicious, recipe development and everything else in between. Whenever you have your own business it’s 24/7, and I’ve gotten better over the years about delegating. It’s definitely a balancing act, and I sometimes feel like I am going to collapse, but I feel grateful everyday that I get to do what I truly love.
You recently said “When life is simple I find myself and my kids the most inspired!”. Do you have any non-negotiables for when it comes to family time for allowing you all to slow down and not get caught up in the daily frenzy?
It’s hard to carve regular times out so to me it’s all about what one does with the time available. I would rather spend 15 quality minutes one-on-one with my husband or kids, truly connected to each other and whatever we are doing, than 2 hours together running around. I try not to make plans at night as I love reading books to my toddler and reading or play board games with my older kids at bedtime. I find that it’s the time when they will really open up about their day. In those rare moments when life is less complicated without too many distractions, it’s incredible to see what we’re able to do and how much better we communicate with one another.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Michelle Obama, Jeff Bezos, Sheryl Sandberg, Ree Drummond, Sara Blakely and Guy Raz (I’m obsessed with his podcast How I Built This).
What is your “no fail” snack platter for an after-school playdate?
The best part about a snack board is that you can put anything on it, so failing is kinda impossible. I find my kids end up eating a wider variety of foods when I put them on a big wood board. My go-to’s are cucumbers, bell peppers & pita chips with hummus, a variety of berries and cut-up fruits, cheese & sliced baguette, almonds or pistachios, olives and a handful of dye-free candies or (if it’s not too late) really good dark chocolate.
What is your morning ritual? Nighttime ritual?
I wake up around 6am, roll through unanswered emails, get myself ready for the day and then start making smoothies for our family. Every morning is a different flavor which keeps things interesting for me. After the kids leave for school (unless I’m taking them) I work another 30 minutes before waking Gemma and playing with her until my first meeting. Night time is 100% family time. We cook dinner and eat dinner as a family, sit and talk about our day. Then I make lunches and pack them in our tried and true PlanetBox stainless bento lunch boxes, which the kids and I love because they a durable (mine have lasted for years), easy for the kids to use and wash clean as new in the dishwasher. Then I get the kids through homework and baths, and read or play board games with them before bed. It’s my most cherished time of the day because I get to just focus on the kids. When they go to bed I turn on a meditation app for them, either Headspace or Stop, Breathe, Think which helps center them and set intentions for a peaceful sleep.
What does community mean to you and how has your mama tribe supported you, your family and your business?
I can’t even begin to tell you how blessed I feel to have so many dynamic women around me. When I first became a mom, many of my mom friends were focused on having kids while simultaneously starting their own businesses and planting their first company seed. It’s been magical watching these incredible women create major companies, and help and support each other in the process.
Photos of Catherine McCord by Emma Feil Photography
3 pearls of wisdom
Happy wife, happy life! Your children are important, work takes up much of your day, but the love in your relationship will make you a better mom, sustain you through everything you do and expand your heart. As a mother you are always giving of yourself, so you need a rock in your life to give back to you. Even if going out for dinner isn’t possible, I try and make sure we have a date every week even if that just means going on a walk or grabbing a coffee.
Treat others as you want to be treated. I always tell my kids to wear a smile on their faces, be polite and most of all, be considerate of others and their feelings.
You win just by trying. If you immerse yourself completely and whole heartedly into any given task you’re already a winner, no matter the outcome.