Nicole whips her family into shape
The actress loves vegging out with the kids
Aformer vegetarian with a plethora of plant-eating pals and a husband who runsru a vegan-friendly ic ice-cream company, actre actress Nicole Whippy has already seen the ben benefits of a meat-free lifestyle.
So when animal-a rights charit charity Safe challenged herh to go “veggo” for fourfo weeks, the NothingTrivialNothin star – a selfconfessedconfess foodie with a fondnessfon for steak – wasw happy to oblige.oblig
But thet mum-oftwo didn’t justjus stop there – she decided tot get the whole family, includinginc her hubby Tommy Holden,Ho 32, and d aught ersdh PP earl,l eight, and Vida, two, on board as well.
Nicole, who recently celebrated her 40th birthday, tells, “We like all types of food and we try to eat organic, but we’re a busy household and I’m not above picking up pizza or opening a can of baked beans. We probably weren’t eating as many fresh veges as we should have been, which is why we decided to do this.”
The first week was definitely the hardest, the
Outrageous Fortune star reflects. “I realised how mindlessly we’d been consuming meat and fish. I almost ate some salmon at my mum’s place, but then I realised I can’t have that any more.”
Going meat-free inspired big family debates from the get-go, tells Nicole. “We’d never really had discussions
‘ I always said I wouldn’t deprive the kids during experiment’ the
based around food before and all of a sudden, when Pearl wanted a pie, we’d talk about where that meat came from.
“Her best school friend is a pescatarian [doesn’t eat meat, but eats fish], so she was really excited about going meat-free. We also gave her a kid’s book about vegetarianism. She loved the connection between not eating meat and not harming animals.”
Tommy, the co-founder of Little Island Creamery, also threw himself into the challenge, whipping up his own vegan mayonnaise and taking on most of the cooking while Nicole was performing six nights a week in a stage production of AStreetcar NamedDesire.
“He’s been amazing,” tells Nicole, who was vegetarian for a year in her 20s. “When I was doing the play, he was creating these incredible meals, including a gourmet Asian tofu dish.”
But while they enjoyed eating at home, dining out was harder. Nicole smiles, “A few of our mates were surprised and teased us for being ‘dirty hippies’, but it encouraged good debate.”
It helped that many of the couple’s good friends are vegan, including Tommy’s business partner James Crow and his family, and several of Nicole’s castmates in the award-winning web series
Auckward Love. “I actually have more meat-free and vegan friends than meat eaters, so we got a lot of support,” tells Nicole.
However, she can’t muster any enthusiasm for fake meat products. “I know some people love it, but I’d rather eat lots of veges,” she tells. “I definitely found my sweet tooth! There are some amazing new vegan-friendly bakeries, and I found it hard to resist a lot of doughnuts and cakes.”
But even the sweet stuff couldn’t help Tommy, who was swayed by a steak mid-challenge, when the Auckland couple visited their favourite local restaurant. And Pearl ate meat on a couple of occasions too.
Nicole tells, “I always said I wouldn’t deprive my kids during this experiment. If they really wanted meat, then they could have it. But they would have to think about it first, that was the deal. I’m really proud of her.”
By the third week, the family had “got into a groove”, tells Nicole, adding that “preparation is the key”. And there were other revelations – her skin improved and Tommy became leaner. “I also noticed that I wasn’t getting as angry about stuff,” she says. “I felt calmer and clearer.”
This month, Safe is encouraging families across Aotearoa to trial a meat-free diet for World Vegetarian Month. They can sign up for the Eat Kind Challenge and find helpful tips at safe.org.nz.
For Nicole, the task has inspired long-term change. She explains, “We’ve decided as a family to go meat-free during the week and give ourselves the choice on the weekend.”
But again, it’ll be up to Tommy to do the cooking as Nicole gears up to star alongside her old Outrageous
Fortune co-star Dave Fane in the play TheMountain
Top, a fictional account of American Civil Rights Movement leader Martin Luther King’s last night on earth, which opens on October 31.
“Growing up Pasifika, we’ve both experienced racism,” says the Fijian-born beauty. “I remember as a kid, a girl told me, ‘My mum says I can’t play with you any more because you’re brown.’ Those underlying experiences stick with you, so it’s something we’re really passionate about addressing in this play.”
And as daily rehearsals get underway, Nicole is optimistic about her new lifestyle. “No more mince and cheese pies for lunch!” she smiles. “I’d encourage anyone who’s thinking about trying the Eat Kind Challenge to give it a go – it might just change your life.”
Tommy dishes out the good stuff to his girls, Pearl (left), Vida and Nicole.