How This Athlete and Working Mom Bonds With Her Toddler Over Freshly Meals

Julie Braatz and her 15-month-old daughter Macy, both huge fans of Freshly, in their Ohio home. | Credit: Julie Braatz
Julie Braatz and her 15-month-old daughter Macy, both huge fans of Freshly, in their Ohio home. | Credit: Julie Braatz

When 15-month-old Macy doesn’t like the food on her plate, she flings it as far as her little arms will let her.

Her mother, Julie Braatz, 42, receives the message loud and clear: that’s a no-go! Macy reacts very differently to Freshly meals, though. Not only does she not throw the food, she devours it! “The only downside is that I have to share my food!” Julie said, laughing.

As a 27-time marathon runner from Columbus, Ohio, Julie knows a thing or two about healthy eating. We talked to her about the importance of making sure she and her daughter always have nutritious meals in the fridge and the necessity for convenience as a working single mom: 

Q: How did you first hear about Freshly?

A: I saw it on my Facebook feed a few months ago. At the time, I was with another meal service company, but didn’t like their food very much—there wasn’t much flavor and the vegetables were soggy. Freshly popped up just as I was thinking about trying something different. So I went online, took a look, and decided to give it a try. I’m really glad I did that because the meals are both healthy and tasty—I love them!

A long-time athlete, Julie Braatz runs between three and five miles six times a week. | Credit: Julie Braatz
A long-time athlete, Julie Braatz runs between three and five miles every day. | Credit: Julie Braatz

Q: Why did the meals make sense for your life?

A: I work full time as an intervention specialist with special needs children. That, combined with being a single mother to my little one leaves me with no time to cook, even though I love to. After I pick up my daughter from daycare, I don’t have very long before it’s time for dinner and then bed. I love that I can spend those hours playing with rather than being in the kitchen, away from her. 

And if by some miracle I do get time to cook or meal prep on the weekend, I end up having to eat the same thing all week long because I don’t like wasting food. With Freshly, I can order a variety of meals and eat something different every day.

Q: Were you surprised by anything about the meals? 

I was very pleasantly surprised by the taste. I genuinely look forward to popping dinner in the microwave and having a delicious, healthy dinner for Macy and myself. I like that the nutrition labels and ingredients are easy to find, so I never have to guess any of that information. I’m an athlete, too, so I like that I can eat a filling meal that comes in under 500 calories.

Another thing I really like about Freshly is your decision to use sustainable packaging material. I recycle the cardboard and the bags that the gel comes in, and the insulation material is biodegradable. 

Q: As an athlete, how did Freshly fit into your life?

A: Being an athlete, I’ve always been a very healthy eater. But my husband and I separated at the end of November and divorced, so I suddenly found myself trying to juggle work, moving into a newly-purchased house, and figuring out how to take care of Macy—all by myself. 

I was making sure she was eating healthy, but I would often just find something quick to grab—like pretzels and hummus—after she went to bed. I was tired and didn’t have time to cook, so I’d also end up throwing away groceries at the end of most weeks because the produce had gone bad. I wasn’t doing very well because I just wasn’t fueling my body properly.

Freshly just took the burden of shopping, prepping, and cooking off my shoulders. I get a complete meal with protein, veggies, and complex carbs. I still buy breakfast foods, but don’t need as much. Everything comes to me prepared, I don’t have to worry about food waste, and I like the variety. I also like that the meals help with portion control; I can easily overeat if I don’t have the correct portions right there.

Julie Braatz has competed in the six largest and most renowned marathons—also known as the World Marathon Majors—in Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City. | Credit: Julie Braatz
Julie Braatz has competed in the six largest and most renowned marathons—also known as the World Marathon Majors—in Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City. | Credit: Julie Braatz

Q: How did cost factor in? 

A: I’m on a pretty tight budget: I earn a teacher’s salary, have a mortgage, and need to pay for Macy’s daycare. Freshly was priced right for me, and I love that you not only offer free shipping but also that fully-prepared meals come to my doorstep. 

Q: How did Macy get introduced to Freshly?

A: The first time she tried a Freshly meal was when I cut up a few small bites of the Grilled Chicken Pesto Risotto for her. She’s very curious and always wants to eat or at least try what I’m eating. If I put something different on her plate, she’ll look at mine and point at it. She loves all the Freshly meals and keeps saying “Mmmm!” as she eats.

Just last week, we had the Sausage Baked Penne and by the time Macy was done, her food was all over her face and even up in her hair—she was clearly enjoying her Freshly meal! She’s my kid, she loves food—what can I say?

Macy digging into one of her favorite Freshly meals, the Super Pesto and Sausage Fusilli. | Credit: Julie Braatz
Macy digging into one of her favorite Freshly meals, the Super Pesto and Sausage Fusilli. | Credit: Julie Braatz

Q: Do you and Macy have any favorite Freshly meals? 

A: We both like so many! I really enjoy the Chicken Tikka Masala, Teriyaki Salmon Cakes, Cod Cakes, and Grilled Chicken Pesto Risotto—they are all so flavorful. Macy particularly likes the pasta dishes, such as the Cauliflower-Shell Bolognese and Sausage Baked Penne. Honestly, though, I don’t think there’s been anything that she’s been picky about or refused to eat.