By Jennifer Karras Lake Forest resident Molly O’Neil launched her business as a holistic health coach in 2015. Three years ago, she started selling two tasty, healthy snacks as well: Moll’s Balls and Moll’s Muffins. A graduate of Integrative Nutrition -- the largest nutrition school in the world – she discusses below her passion for nutrition and healthy living. What inspired you to become a holistic health coach, and what brings you the greatest gratification guiding clients through lifestyle changes?
I have always connected physical activity and exercise with feeling healthy, confident and energized. My parents were both physically active and incorporated a wide range of fun physical activities, such as skiing, hiking, canoeing, biking and running into my life starting at a young age. Throughout my high school years at Lake Forest Academy and my college years at Colorado College, I was challenged physically and emotionally on several different Outward Bound and Wilderness Ventures trips. I did things I never thought I could. This is when I truly began to realize both the physical and mental wellbeing and confidence that regular exercise and a can-do-it attitude provided me. In college, I started to try different diets, including the no-fat, all-carb trend (which didn’t satisfy me at all… or help so much) and continued to experiment with different diets and theories on myself after college, from Weight Watchers to Seattle Sutton’s to Nutrisystem. While I lost some weight and learned a lot about portion-control, calorie intake and helpful tools such as logging/journaling, I was not feeling satisfied or particularly healthy or energized.
I started to read more and more health books, received a personal training certification from DePaul University and then graduated from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I realized that eating real, whole foods and eliminating processed foods -- along with portion control, sleep, and exercise -- was the best and healthiest method. I began to view food as fuel: If you feed your body good, clean food, it will run more efficiently and smoothly.
"One must create healthy, lasting, lifestyle changes through nutrition, exercise and sleep," says Molly O'Neil. When did you realize there was a need for a super-healthy, easy snack for active kids and adults, and what was your process in developing Moll’s Balls and Muffins? I realized there was a need/want for healthy (and for me personally, gluten-free) treats from my health coaching clients who would ask me for ideas of easy, on-the-go snacks and bars that do not have so much sugar, preservatives, soy, gluten and other allergens. I realized most bars are filled with these unnecessary and inflammatory ingredients, so I developed a portion-size pack of balls (each ball with approximately 80-90 calories, five grams of healthy fats, four grams of fiber and four grams of protein and zero refined sugar) that could be taken on the go and provide a fueling, protein-packed snack for pre- or post-workout. I started with one flavor but have since listened to customers’ wants and needs and developed 12 other flavors and five types of muffins and some keto, grain free and paleo.
You source local and organic ingredients for Moll’s Balls. Do you shop at local farmers markets? I love supporting local and small businesses and have formed special relationships with three places where I also sell my products. One is our very own Elawa Farm and its wonderful garden markets from May-October. I often use Elawa’s local, delicious products in my recipes from blueberries to spinach to their own honey. I also often stock up at an amazing tea, smoothie and spice shop in Highland Park called Love That Spice. Each type of ball/muffin I make has a different superfood and healing spice in it that I get there.
I also go to Be Market in Lake Bluff. Owner Vade Sankar has supported my product and has a wealth of knowledge and supplies a variety of healthy, anti-inflammatory, vegan foods and snacks.
In your coaching experience, what have you found to be essential for those seeking to achieve lasting lifestyle goals? I strongly believe to improve your overall health and wellness one must create healthy, lasting, lifestyle changes through nutrition, exercise and sleep. My approach is about eating real, clean, delicious food and incorporating healthy, lifelong habits in exercise, sleep and stress management. Do you have any favorite blogs or Instagram accounts that you follow for inspiration?
Two of my favorites for easy, clean and delicious recipes and nutritional information and guidance are Megan Gilmore, who’s at Detoxinista.com and on Instagram @detoxinista (love her almond butter freezer fudge and smoothie recipes, plus best easy salmon curry) and Purely Elizabeth, who’s on Instagram @purelyelizabeth. Love her overnight oat recipes and banana, nut butter quesadillas. This one of a series of articles on craft businesses. Find out more about Molly's business at www.mollsballs.com.