February 24, 2021

Creating A Culture of Healthy Habits

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Molly Kimball aims to improve the health of Louisianans without compromising our culture.  

A Baton Rouge native currently residing in New Orleans, Molly Kimball fully understands the role food plays in the state’s culture and the pride that Louisianans have in our unique cuisines. As a registered dietitian and nutrition journalist, Molly has a passion for helping people live their healthiest and strongest lives while setting an example herself. She is constantly seeking innovative ways to balance Louisiana’s rich culture and a commitment to health and wellness.  

“Food is our culture. It’s our core, our fabric. It’s truly part of how we identify ourselves,” she says.

Eating in Louisiana is a culinary adventure. Spanning centuries, our food is ingrained into who we are. From Cajun to Creole dishes, soul food to seafood, Oysters Rockefeller to oyster po-boys, our menus are as diverse as our residents, providing a sampling of Louisiana’s rich heritage. Molly’s goal isn’t to change those iconic favorites, but rather work to enhance the nutritional value and make delicious health-conscience options more readily available.  

First recognizing the challenges that dining out posed for those wanting to improve their eating habits, Molly sought to provide solutions. In 2013, she founded Eat Fit, a non-profit initiative of Ochsner Health that works to provide healthy alternatives, making the healthy choice the easy choice. The core of the program works to encourage nutritious selections – whether an individual is looking to lose weight, feel or look better, or manage health issues including diabetes, cholesterol, or high blood pressure. Together with her Eat Fit team, Molly works closely with local restaurants, markets, and other food service establishments to help identify and develop dishes that meet the established nutritional criteria.

Through Molly’s leadership and guidance, Eat Fit was a recipient of a Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Louisiana 3-year collective impact grant, which allowed the program to expand into six regions across the state including the Northshore, Baton Rouge, Acadiana, Shreveport, and Monroe, extending to more than 500 program partners. Eat Fit services are provided free of charge, with approved items donning the seal of approval, designed to allow customers to identify healthier option.  

“But it’s not enough to put that seal on the menu or products,” she says. “There’s a lot about educating the communities and helping them understand what health and wellness is really about.”

In addition to Eat Fit, Molly works to bridge the gap between the idea of wellness and real life through her many other ventures. In her weekly podcast, FUELED Wellness + Nutrition, Molly helps navigate the latest trends and research related to the mind and body, providing interviews with experts and innovators that feel less like science class and more like a chat with your best friend. When she’s not behind the mic, she can be found in front of the camera on her weekly TV segment on WGNO, Get Fueled with Molly, featuring an array of wellness topics, including product spotlights, myth-busting, and cooking segments.  

While Molly’s passion for wellness started early on with her fitness-focused father, she understands that health and wellness doesn’t come easy to everyone. Her time as a dietitian has allowed her to see first-hand the struggles some have with fitness.  

“Nutritious eating and a healthy lifestyle don’t have to be painful or huge drastic changes,” she says. Adding, “you can still do the things you love while infusing wellness into your lifestyle. The seemingly insignificant micro-steps or slightest shifts in behavior add up to become tremendous improvements.”

Those small improvements are where Molly says Louisiana should focus. Ranking as one of the unhealthiest states in the country, with 65.8 percent of the state’s population being marked overweight or obese, there is a clear need for improved wellbeing. Even though many of our cultural favorites tend to be not-so-healthy, Molly believes that doesn't have to change, necessarily. There are plenty of quintessential Louisiana staples, like local seafood, red beans, and greens that can easily become healthy options by simply re-thinking how those dishes are prepared.  

A healthier lifestyle is a simple way for each of us to help Louisiana thrive. “We’re not trying to change the food culture; rather, enhance it to allow more viability from the food we love. By fueling our bodies with the right foods and forms of exercise, we reduce our risk for other health-related illnesses,” says Molly.  

VISIT MOLLY KIMBALL'S FEATURE PAGE

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