If you’re anything like us, thinking about what to cook for dinner every night (while factoring in fussy eaters who hate peas or won’t eat anything white) is enough to make us want to poke ourselves in the face with a fork. And let’s not even get started on the school lunch box… We want ideas. Easy, nutritional, sure-thing ideas that everyone will love. Enter Mandy Sacher, author of cookbook Wholesome Child. Mandy is like a nutrition oracle and has so many simple recipes and tips you can steal to make you feel like Mother Of the Century. Enjoy xx
How many kids have you made?
My favourite creations! Aaron is 7 and Summer is 4 (she keeps reminding me that she’s actually 4 and a QUARTER!)
What’s keeping you busy right now?
The past 18 months has been the busiest my life has ever been. Six months of long hours spent writing my book Wholesome Child: A Complete Nutrition Guide and Cookbook along with the launch to the Australian market last September has meant that things have been exceptionally action-packed.
My book is also due to launch in the US in the next month (pre-orders already available through Amazon, Walmart, Target, Barnes & Noble amongst others) – meaning that there are a few international trips planned amidst much preparation and excitement.
Added to that are my gorgeous kids, whom I’m conscious to be around, for and with as much as possible. Life is definitely a juggling act at the moment!
What do you do for yourself?
I make a conscious effort each day to do some form of exercise or relaxation. That may be ten minutes of deep breathing before an event or Pilates ( my absolute favourite form of exercise). It’s often just 20 minutes here and there, however on the weekend I do try spend time with my family and friends going for walks and ‘nature adventures’ as my son calls them.
How is life admin allocated between you and your husband?
I’m fortunate to have a hands-on husband – both with the kids and with Wholesome Child. Given that we both work full time, daily chores and family duties are interchangeable, which suits our family and lifestyle.
I tend to manage the school and homework side of things and any illness related issues that crop up with the kids (they still want Mommy when they don’t feel well!) – and my husband is the handy-man around the home and tech whizz (which I’m definitely not!)
Give us a quick snapshot of how your average morning rolls out…
It’s a bit of a running joke in our family that whilst we may have managed to optimize my little ones’ nutrition side of things – unfortunately the sleeping element isn’t quite there yet. My daughter in particular often ends up in our bed in the middle of the night… so most mornings I wake up with a little limb in the face (or ribs).
Mornings can start anywhere between 5.30am -6am when I have scheduled meetings with my PR team in the US. Luckily my kids tend to be late sleepers – and often have to be coaxed out of sleep. Once they’re awake, there are plenty of repeat requests to put clothes on, discussions about which colour shoes are appropriate and how we want to wear our hair today…
Breakfast is at 7.30am – we all eat at the table together and I always start the day with a glass of lemon and water. If time permits (which is hardly ever) I add grated ginger. We have a breakfast planner, which the kids help me to create – so there are no surprises when breakfast is served. At around 8.30am, either myself, my husband or my Mum or Dad commences the school drop offs… and then the work day begins!
What’s for breakfast in your house?
Given how manic our average morning is, I’m a big fan of quick, simple and nutritious options like smoothies (with added protein, chia seeds and a veg or two included with the fruit), some homemade granola from the pantry (made in bulk ahead of time)- or some homemade DIY coconut yoghurt and fresh fruit. A simple slice of spelt sourdough toast with a smear of delicious nut butter always goes down well and eggs are always a firm favourite!
What do you pack in your kids’ lunchbox?
Ideally, a nutritionally balanced lunchbox should contain: a serve of quality protein, one to two serves of a slow-release carbohydrate, two to three vegetables, a single serve of a healthy fat and a calcium-rich food.
The following options are some of my kids’ favourite lunchbox meals:
- Lamb koftas on sticks
- Salmon mini-quiches
- Cheese scrolls (recipe in my book)
- Beef and veggie meatballs
- Chickpea Pumpkin patties
- Sweet potato pizza (recipe in my book)
- Sweet potato pikelets
Some other popular side snacks:
- Boiled egg in fun-shaped moulds
- Veggie sticks with homemade dips
- Lunchbox-friendly muesli bars (recipe in my book)
- Simple seaweed wraps – seaweed strips, shredded veggies, shredded chicken that kids can wrap up themselves
- Natural yoghurt and mixed fruit in a reusable container (freeze the night before so it’s slushy by the time kids eat it)
- Cheese, tomato and cucumber salads (cut cheese into fun shapes)
- Choc chia bliss balls (recipe in my book)
- Fruit, veggie and cheese skewers
- Trail mixes: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sultanas, popcorn, coconut flakes, carob nibs
- Sourdough toast fingers with Betta than Nutella Choc Spread (school friendly)
What’s your go-to dinner the kids will always eat?
Spaghetti Bolognese is always a winner in my house. My recipe is packed with vegetables and it also makes my meat-loving husband happy, too!
Bolognese sauce is a great one to cook in advance and keep in the freezer for busy weeknights. We pair it with wholegrain pasta, baked sweet potatoes, roasted vegetables or even wholegrain wraps with salad. It’s versatility is a winner and leftovers make a great lunchbox addition in cooler months, too.
What does an ideal daily menu look like for young kids?
A protein packed breakfast such as eggs with a side of avocado and spelt sourdough toast
Plenty of veggies for a mid-morning snack, paired with healthy dips such as hummus, butternut hummus, avocado guacamole or tzatziki
Brain boosting salmon and millet rissoles with a side of sweet potato veggies (I often use leftovers from dinner the night before or have a batch of cooked patties stored in the freezer).
For mid-afternoon snack, a fresh piece of fruit alongside a sugar stabilizing snack such as flaxseed crackers or a seaweed wrap with veggies and a piece of cheese.
Dinners should always be a sit down affair, I encourage families to swap it up and rotate between meat, fish, chicken, legumes and egg based dishes. I also encourage a salad to be served before or with the meal and a side of steamed or baked veggies. It’s important to model healthy eating behaviours and exposing children to plenty of vegetables at the dinner meal goes a long way in boosting their intake, especially when only 1 in 5 children is meeting the recommended intake of veggies per day.
5 things always in your grocery trolley?
Almond milk, Spelt Sourdough Bread (I love sourdough!), fresh berries, leafy greens and baby cucumbers!
Did you have any family traditions as a kid and have you continued those or started new ones with your kids?
When I was growing up, every evening we would begin our family meal with salad. I have carried this tradition on with my own children. Both my children are avid salad eaters. I also spent many happy hours helping my mum in the kitchen. I have the fondest memories of those times and have always been keen to recreate the magic with my own kids. I’m fortunate that they are very eager participants – each week we cook something special together.
I think it goes a long way towards teaching little ones about food prep, healthy ingredients and spending quality time together.
What can you teach me in a couple of minutes?
The easiest and most delicious gluten-free and dairy-free vegan cheese dip! It’s the perfect snack with veggie stick or wholegrain crackers and great for entertaining:
Simply soak 1 cup raw cashews in 2 cups of water for 2-4 hours, drain and blend with ¼ cup water, 2 tbs nutritional yeast, 1-2 tbs lemon juice, 1 garlic clove, 1tbs Dijon mustard, 1tbs fresh dill and salt/pepper to taste. Done! It stores in the fridge for up to a week, too.
What words would your husband/best friend/kids use to describe you?
Haha- that very much depends on the day and the person you ask! 😉 Whilst writing this, I asked my husband and his words were “pain in the neck”… hee hee. Apparently that was a joke and he has since described me as “determined, passionate, resilient and hardworking”. My son offered up “funny, cooks well, helps me with my reading, gives great hugs and is great at Nintendo”.
What’s one tip we can all steal from your life?
Trying to keep life balanced is ALWAYS a work in progress – for all of us.
The one thing that I’ve found has made the biggest difference recently is my decision to compartmentalise things and priorities. I’ve been making a conscious effort to split up my time and really focus on being mindful in whatever I’m doing. Distraction is so easy when there are so many things going on!
Making a daily list (with reasonable expectations) and making time to exercise has been very useful. In the evenings when I’m with my kids now I’m REALLY with them for those few hours after school and before bedtime. It’s part of the evening routine and it’s made the nights calmer as my kids are aware that they’re getting my full attention.
The most memorable book you’ve ever read?
I find the multi-talented Ariana Huffington incredibly inspiring and reading her book Thrive enlightened me on many levels and rescued me from all those moments of self-doubt and entrepreneurial angst.
One of my favourite quotes from her: “Fearlessness is like a muscle. I know from my own life that the more I exercise it the more natural it becomes to not let my fears run me.”
Girl maintenance address book:
QuietSpace in Double Bay is perfect for my sensitive skin. I’ve been going there for years and can’t recommend them highly enough. Their enzyme treatments really nourish the skin and work from the inside out.
The three beauty products you buy over and over again?
- Glo Minerals concealer
- DMK Betagel
- Hourglass bronzer.
What’s the best holiday you’ve ever had with the kids?
Over this past Christmas break, our family went away to Mudgee with our closest friends and had an absolutely amazing time reconnecting with nature and disconnecting from technology!
We couldn’t have been happier with the accommodation that we chose and highly recommend Mudgee’s Getaway Cottages.
Self-catering holidays (especially with little ones) is something that I always enjoy – both in terms of cooking for my family as well as the convenience factor. The beautiful and lush vegetable gardens on the property meant that the children could explore the delicious produce on offer and we could choose and pick our own veggies for our meals. From earth to plate. A luxury that we don’t often get, living in Sydney! Needless to say, all children fell asleep early, slept soundly and woke up later than normal (another holiday win for the adults!)
Mandy Sacher is a paediatric nutritionist, mum and author of the Wholesome Child Complete Nutrition Guide and Cookbook (available online and via iTunes). You can learn more about Mandy’s Group Workshops or connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.