Cover story

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

Good Health Choices - - Contents -

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.”

Fam­ily life

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.”

Healthy habits

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’

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