Living a Healthy and Happy Life,
Q&A with celebrity chef, Anna Gare
What tips do you have for getting children into cooking and eating healthy?
Some kids are fussy eaters and I was lucky enough to receive one as a challenge. I tried every trick in the book- hiding the peas in the mash, pureeing the vegies and adding blitzed spinach to bolognaise sauce. Sadly she could detect anything green and wouldn’t eat it! I really didn’t want food to become an issue for us at every meal time so I just made sure I gave her plenty of the few fruit and vegies that she did love.
I think if we encourage our children into the kitchen at a young age it helps them to develop a healthy attitude towards cooking and eating. Sometimes as a mum you don’t get a lot of time to cook, so I used to sit my kids up on the bench and give them cooking utensils to play with while I prepared the dinner, offering them samples along the way. There’s nothing I loved more than watching my babies faces as I introduced them to new tastes and textures. They would usually scoff it down or spit it out and I soon learnt what they liked and didn’t! Kid’s tastes do change, so if you keep exposing them to all types of foods they may just develop broad and healthy tastebuds.
Getting kids into the kitchen and doing a bit of creative cooking is a great interactive activity to have with your children. My kids loved making simple recipes like Ginger bread men, pizza faces or tiger toast, but most of all they enjoyed getting their hands dirty and making a mess. It was a great test of my patience!
Growing vegies in the garden is another great introduction to fresh produce. My kids loved watching the vegies and herbs grow. I would constantly send them out to pick me herbs for cooking and when they were little they would often return proudly with a handful of weeds.
My kids are all teenagers now - I have taught them good safe knife skills and they can all whip up a simple home-cooked meal. I have made them feel very comfortable in the kitchen and now I hope to reap the rewards.
In a world of pre-packaged food, fresh food cooking skills are very valuable. As a family, we rarely have fast food, and when we do we always regret it afterwards!
Aside from the means of nutrition, what role does food/cooking have on you and your family’s life?
The kitchen is the center of our home; I often get the kids involved in the preparation of dinner, not just to make them food savvy but to get all the latest teenage goss! It’s a great catch up space. Some of the best conversations with my kids have been had while peeling the potatoes. As parents we are all so busy these days and although we think we are doing special things with our kids when we take them to a movie or watch them play sport, we are not really interacting on a social level. There’s nothing I love more than getting into kitchen with my family, having a cook up and then sitting down to a yummy dinner. A family that cooks and eats together stays together.
With a busy lifestyle, how do you find time and the motivation to exercise regularly?
When I’m on track I exercise 3 times a week, first thing in the morning before the kids wake up and before I can talk myself out of it. I arrange to meet a girlfriend so I have to show up. I am exercise lazy if left to my own devices. I make the effort because it really makes a difference to my psyche. It makes me feel physically and mentally stronger, frees my mind and makes me feel more in control of my busy life. I am also motivated by the elated good feeling I get at the end of a work out………….. Thank god it’s over!
Being a mum involves a lot of time looking after others. What are some things you love to do, for yourself, that make you happy? What benefits are there for allocating some time to yourself?
I love going out to see live music and dancing; it’s a great way to dust off a busy week. It’s like exercise without watching the clock or having a goal.
I also enjoy lazy and delectable long lunches with the girls or my husband. Lunch is one of my favorite meals and making an occasion of it can highjack a whole day in the nicest possible way.
Once I have done something for myself I can deliver the best me to my children and my job.
Parents can often find it difficult maintaining a balance between encouraging and supporting their kids without being too overbearing. What advice can you give to parents who just want their children to live a happy and successful life?
I grew up in a big family where we were all encouraged to follow our passions. As a result we are all working now in jobs we love. You can’t give a kid a passion but you can expose them to lots of different things in life and they will soon work out what flicks their switch. I encourage my children to study the subjects they are interested in. Happily as a result they have all been getting top marks because they enjoy what they are doing.
“Choose a job you love and you will never work a day in your life” Quote by Confucius
Anna Gare is a judge and co-host of the hit television show, Junior Masterchef.