As a cookbook author, food blogger and children’s health advocate, Daisy Dagg always has a lot on her plate. Now mum to baby son Arlo, Daisy and All Black husband Israel Dagg are creating their own healthy family rituals at home
Cookbook author and All Black wife Daisy Dagg on creating healthy family rituals
The moment Daisy Dagg decided to start her popular healthy food blog, The Rugby Pantry, she was eating pizza and drinking prosecco. She laughs at the irony, but then again, life for the Christchurch-based foodie is all about balance, but with good habits as the strong foundation. The blog, which she started with close friend Amber Vito [married to All Black Victor Vito], began as a platform to share recipes with family and friends, and later helped her develop ideas for two cookbooks and a new business venture.
“Amber and I were in Rome during a rugby trip, and chatting about our common interest in food, so we decided to start something,” she recalls. “Our first cookbook, Healthy Measures and Guilty Pleasures, helped us find a niche that a lot of our online followers seemed to be wanting. We kept getting asked about healthy meals for kids, meals that were easy to prepare and recipes that would please fussy eaters.”
With a degree in health science, Daisy’s main interest had always been sports nutrition, but she switched her focus when friends who owned a daycare asked her to help create a low-sugar menu for pre-schoolers. Knowing first hand there was a demand for healthy, budgetfriendly recipe ideas for children, Amber and Daisy created their popular e-book, Kai for Kids.
“We really wanted to show people that cooking good food doesn’t have to be hard, and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. I get that parents are extremely busy – I feel that myself and I’ve only got one child who’s not even walking yet – but those convenience foods are so high in sugar and full of fat. I understand they can feel like the easy option, but in reality it only takes 10 minutes to boil some veges.”
Ask Daisy about her most popular recipes for tots, and she says it’s the tried and true staples, with some healthy tweaks, that often go down the best.
“It’s your easy spag bol and nachos that the kids love, but the trick is to hide lots of veges in them,” says the down-toearth former farm girl. “Amber’s kids are real pickers, so she did a lot of the smaller meals, while I did more of the basics. One that’s been especially popular is our ‘chocolate smoosh’ bars. They look chocolatey but they’re filled with nuts and seeds, and sweetened with honey, so it’s all natural ingredients.”
Being married to an All Black might sound glam, but these days Daisy prefers the quiet life. A long-time fitness fan, she’s been slowly getting back into exercise by going for walks, doing Pilates and tinkering in the garden around four-month-old
Arlo’s sleep times. With a top athlete in the house, life revolves around training schedules and rugby trips away, not to mention the super-sized dinners required to keep an All Black on form.
“Izzy does eat a lot in one serving,” Daisy laughs. “Whenever family come and stay with us they’re pretty surprised! He’s burning through so many calories a day, he needs a substantial amount of food to keep his energy levels up. They train so hard, and usually only have one day off a week. The Super Rugby schedule is pretty much an 8-5 job, while the All Black schedule is being away for four months.”
It’s a routine that often gets in the way of family time, and Daisy, who’s been sporty herself since high school, says travel is even harder now with a baby.
“It definitely gets difficult, but Izzy is more inclined to want me to come on overseas trips now as that’s the only way he gets to see Arlo. Being with an elite athlete does have its ups and downs; they’re away a lot, which is so difficult for the families. One season rolls onto the next, that’s why they really love their December-January break when they have two months off.”
Growing up in Gisborne, Daisy’s childhood was filled with outdoor fun, relaxed barbecues, and fresh produce straight from the garden. Now that she’s a mum herself, she’s drawing on the lessons she learned from her own parents to help set up some healthy family routines.
“My upbringing was quite traditional,
we ate every night at the table, and when I go home we still do,” she says. “I’d love to bring that back at home with Izzy. It’s scary now how often kids are on iPads or looking at social media, and dinner is a good time to set that sort of thing aside. It’s crazy when a two-year-old knows the password to your phone! I know a lot of families who have a phone-free table.”
She also thinks it’s vital to get kids to help in the kitchen. “Kids love to cook, and in some ways it’s a dying art,”she says.“When my nephew was little I used to sit him on the bench and he’d watch what I was doing. Now he’s older, he’s really interested in cooking. Sadly, a lot of us aren’t being taught to cook from a young age, like other generations used to. It’s something Amber and I talk about often, how important it is to get kids interested in food, in what they’re eating and where it comes from, and how to grow and prepare things.”
For Daisy, who part-owns the daycare centre where she created the menus, it’s also key to not get hung up on food. “If you are too controlled, you pass on the message that food is bad. All these health trends, no butter, no sugar, they can create issues. Meals don’t have to always be fat free, sugar free, and full of coconut oil. I’m an advocate for lower sugar in kids’ meals, but I still cook with butter and I like putting tomato sauce on things sometimes!”
In the Dagg household, it’s Daisy who does most of the cooking; she likes to use natural wholefoods and as many fresh vegetables as possible. “I’m a big believer in everything in moderation, and eating in a way that’s right for you. Every body type is so different, every body shape is different, everyone’s schedules are different, so you need to find that balance for yourself.”
‘I’m a big believer in everything in moderation’