What could McDonald's and sound nutrition have in common? Kellie Hill has the right answer.
Owner of The Right Plan Nutrition Counseling, Hill is a former partner in local McDonald's franchises who spurned fast-food in favor of real food prepared to maximize nutrients. Her year-old Medford business tailors clients' diets to individual lifestyles, health concerns and goals.
"I think that background gives me a really unique perspective," says Hill, 41. "I'm not judgmental."
Hill's own childhood regimen of processed foods piqued her interest in eating better. She learned to cook as a teen and young adult, formulating her own low-fat diet. While she attained a thin figure, Hill came to acknowledge she wasn't truly healthy.
After a brief career managing nonprofit groups in Portland, the Medford native returned home to purchase two 7-11 stores. The "price was right," she says, and "they gave you a lot of training."
Hill peddled all things processed and convenient for five years before marrying husband Doug, whose family opened Medford's first McDonald's in 1972 on Barnett Road. The Hills operated locations at Medford's Biddle and McAndrews roads and on Crater Lake Highway near Walmart, as well as in White City. Doug Hill took over his wife's interests in McDonald's more than a year ago.
Before exiting the enterprise, Hill says she was careful to separate her business practices from home, where she always cooked healthful meals for her husband and two children. McDonald's, she says, was never on the family's dinner menu.
"It was never meant to be a mainstay of food," says Hill, explaining that franchised fare was supposed to be a "treat" but evolved into a "staple."
If friends and acquaintances found the dichotomy between Hill's private and professional life odd, they didn't discount her nutritional advice, even as it stemmed from an ironic premise: In the time it takes to navigate a drive-through, says Hill, families can cook delicious, healthful food.
"People don't know how to cook anymore," she laments. "I think people are just a tad bit scared of the kitchen."
In 2002, Hill began taking private and group cooking classes from Allyson Holt, founder and former co-owner of Allyson's Kitchen in Ashland.
Now Hill holds her own hands-on sessions — open to the public — in a sleek, professional kitchen at The Right Plan's headquarters on Cardley Avenue. Instruction centers around preparing nutrient-dense, whole, seasonal foods. Topics range from gluten-free diets and eating for one's body type to specific culinary techniques, such as braising and poaching.
"I love 'em," says client Nichole Lott of Hill's recipes.
Since her 2001 diagnosis of cancer of the appendix, Lott has relied on wholesome foods to keep her cancer in remission. Because cancer thrives in an acidic environment and "craves sugar," the 37-year-old Jacksonville resident says she has maintained a low-fat diet of alkaline foods for the past decade. Lott avoids anything processed, cooks all her own meals and consumes only grass-fed meats and wild fish. She dines out rarely and then only in certain restaurants known for healthful fare.
"I already came in with a lot of knowledge," says Lott.
Yet Lott says she struggles to keep enough weight on her frame and feared she wasn't getting all the nutrition possible. After seeking the right fit in nutrition counseling for several years, Lott signed up with Hill on a referral from her chiropractor and Pilates instructor.
"She's very personal, very thorough," says Lott, adding that Hill explains nutrition in a way that appeals to her profession as a microbiologist at Rogue Community College and Rogue Valley Medical Center labs.
Hill holds a bachelor's degree in nutrition from Kaplan University and certification from the Nutritional Therapy Association. Her counseling sessions start with extensive client questionnaires, addressing medical history, daily digestive functions and eating habits. She assigns a journal in which clients document food intake.
Using her hands, Hill palpates clients' abdomens to identify problem areas. She tests the body's need for vitamins and minerals by dropping solutions containing isolated nutrients onto the tongue and gauging the reaction. She also takes clients on grocery-store tours and overhauls their home pantries. The end result is a customized program that doesn't necessarily advocate exercise but honors clients' "bio-individuality."
"That's why diets work for some people and don't work for others," says Hill, adding that her service isn't a weight-loss regimen. "I help people find their optimal health."
For Lott, optimal nutrient absorption is possible with bile-salts supplements. Because cancer surgery cost Lott her gall bladder, her body also lost much of its ability to break down fats. Since working with Hill, she takes the necessary chemical in pill form, adds lemon or lime juice to foods and drinks warm water an hour before eating. It's a strategy not one physician recommended following her cancer treatment, says Lott.
Yet Hill says she admonishes clients to see a doctor for serious medical issues, and there are some local practitioners who make nutrition referrals to her. Hill also doesn't hesitate to recommend mainstream weight-loss programs for prospective clients who prefer to count calories, eat prepared foods or cook from standardized menus.
"I really struggle with that concept," says Hill of quick-fix approaches to losing weight.
The Right Plan, she says, involves three- to six-month commitments from clients who value their health over numbers on the scale. If people make better choices about their food, she says, other healthful habits follow.
"It's a permanent lifestyle change."
For more information about The Right Plan, call 541-772-7526 or see www.therightnutritionplan.com.