“Eating is her forte; cooking is mine”
How do you raise a little one who loves veggies and all things healthy? Social-media influencer Bella Koh shares her secrets with ELISA CHIA.
Most kids squirm in horror when you show them green juices, let alone drink them. But 1½-year-old Alessandra Yeung happily sips half a bottle of cold-pressed vegetable juice, while snacking on goji berries.
The little one also laps up meals that feature bittergourd, bamboo shoots, kale and lady’s ngers, among other healthy ingredients.
“Eating is her forte, while cooking is mine,” declares work-from-home mum Bella Koh, 35, who documents her parenting moments, cooking, yoga, fashion and travel experiences on Instagram. Her account, @catslavery, has amassed 69,600 followers and counting.
“Have I turned my child into a health junkie?” she muses in one post. Here, she tells Young Parents how she instils good eating habits in Alessandra. (Turn to page 42 for her recipes, as well.)
Where did you pick up your cooking skills?
It was mostly through watching my mum cook. I remember making my rst dish when I was nine years old. I made a mess of her kitchen, but that was the beginning of my food journey.
My late paternal grandma also had a strong inuence on me. She made excellent Teochew and Peranakan dishes. I’d usually observe her while she cooked up a storm in the kitchen every Sunday for our family of 20!
My maternal grandma, on the other hand, owned a medical hall. When I was young, we were made to try bitter traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and “odd” Hakka dishes that no kids would love.
Interestingly, I took to loving bitter medicines and foods. The rest of it was self-taught and through curiosity, based on my travels.
You’re such a multitasker. How do you juggle work and a toddler, and still find the time and energy to cook?
I never knew I was one until I became a mum! I think the situation forces you to juggle many roles all at once. I still sleep at 4am these days and wake up at 9am. I’m not even sure if I’m alive on some days ( laughs).
I work from home and look after Alessandra by myself. On Thursdays, I send her over to my mum. That very precious one day of being child-free really makes me more efcient with my daily tasks. It clears my mind and I have time to plan for the entire week.
I used to make food in batches and freeze them when she was younger. However, I have somewhat learnt the French way of parenting – children eating what the adults eat. So I try to cook dishes that cater to everyone in the family.
For breakfast, I keep it easy: two bananas, an avocado, two hard-boiled or scrambled eggs and optional wholemeal bread. I eat these with her.
Lunch is usually sh porridge or miso soup with tofu and brown rice, which I set to cook the night before.
I’ve made many different dishes for dinner, but decided to stick to brown rice and a one-pot dish. Usually a nabe dashi stock with bittergourd, simmered daikon, mountain yam, tofu, carrots, pumpkin, cabbages, salmon or barramundi, and plenty of leeks, garlic and ginger.
Conforming to a xed menu with ingredients on rotation is what does best for us.
Of course, you’ve really got to love cooking. That’s what keeps me going.
Has your cooking style changed since Alessandra came along?
I cook almost every day. I don’t think it has changed much, except we eat more often at home for dinner. I’ve always enjoyed making Japanese food and it suits kids in general.
I like simple, healthy and yummy dishes. No frying, if possible – that means less washing up. In fact, I even plan my cooking around how to minimise prepping ingredients and cleaning up later. That helps me decide on my cooking style.