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Nora Pouillon

Nora Pouillon is a well-known chef/restaurateur and a pioneer in the organic food movement. Her namesake establishment, Restaurant Nora, is the first dining establishment in North America to become certified organic. Nora's other restaurant, Asia Nora, serves delicious dishes from across Asia. FoodFit wanted to know how this fantastic chef and busy mom incorporates healthy living into her family life.

FoodFit   Why do you think it's important for kids to become involved in learning about food and nutrition?

NORA
POUILLON:

 

It's very important for kids to learn about food and nutrition because it involves their bodies; the way they feel and think. It directly influences their lives. Children should really learn very early on how healthy food benefits them.
 

FoodFit   Do you have any ideas for getting kids interested in cooking?

NORA
POUILLON:

 

I think the key is to get children involved in the planning, shopping and cooking process. Involve them in menu planning. Take them with you on trips to the supermarket. It's good to explain to kids what types of fruits and vegetables are in season. Tomatoes for example—make it a point to show your children how to choose a ripe tomato and teach them different things you can do with tomatoes. Let them help you and they will be excited and interested in making the cooking process happen.
 

FoodFit   Can you suggest some ways to make a child's school lunch more fun and appealing, yet still healthy?

NORA
POUILLON:

 

For my own daughters, Nina (14) and Nadia (11), I like to buy little insulated lunch boxes; they're soft and easy to carry. I'll put little dry ice packets in the boxes to make sure that their lunches remain cold. For lunch, I usually pack them leftovers from dinner the night before or leftovers from the restaurant. I'll pack them things like chicken and rice and add cut cucumbers or tomatoes. In another small container I'll pack raisins, cookies, or fresh fruit like small apples or cut-up peaches. I generally like to cut softer fruits because it prevents them from getting mushy or bruised and it's easier this way for children to eat. It really depends on the child—my daughter Nina really likes to bite down on a whole, hard apple.

The important thing is to make healthy food accessible and easy for children. At first my daughters were embarrassed about bringing such elaborate lunches to school, rather than the standard peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but now they enjoy it. Their fellow classmates and even their teachers are always excited to see what kinds of things they bring for lunch each day. Overall, it's most important to give kids a variety—to expand from the typical "meat and potato" type of diet.
 

FoodFit   In addition to healthy eating, how can parents incorporate fitness activities into their children's daily lives?

NORA
POUILLON:

 

Parents are always the best example for getting kids involved in fitness; kids emulate their parents. Try walking to the grocery store with them or doing exercise tapes at home with them. I even take my daughters with me to yoga and step aerobics classes. You can show them how to jump rope, swim, use small weights, do stretches while they're watching TV—any activity to incorporate fun fitness during the week or after school is excellent. On the weekends, try to schedule fitness-related family outings. Hiking, rollerblading, kayaking, skiing, biking and more are all fun, outdoor activities.
 

FoodFit   What kind of healthy breakfasts and after-school snacks do you make for your kids?

NORA
POUILLON:

 

For breakfast my daughters really enjoy yogurt with fruit, honey or maple syrup and nuts. They also love eggs. Serving kids soft-boiled eggs with a piece of buttered toast cut into strips is a really fun, easy way to eat breakfast; kids like to dip the toast strips in the egg yolk.

My children like to make their own breakfasts as well. Show kids how to cook simple dishes such as scrambled or sunny-side down (over easy) eggs. Add some diced tomato or some cheese for variety, color and flavor. I also am a big proponent of the nutritious qualities of peanut butter—another item parents can incorporate into healthy, substantial breakfasts for their kids.

As for after school snacks, I usually have salads with lettuce and cut-up vegetables like carrots and cucumbers for my daughters. This is a great snack because it can get kids involved in the cooking/eating process. Allow kids to choose or make their own dressings to go with the salad or even with just plain, cut vegetables. A piece of cheddar cheese melted on whole-grain toast is also a great, time-saving snack. For my own children, I generally just bring home breads from the restaurant: whole-grain, rye, sourdough, etc.—all made with organic flour. Finally, hard-boiled eggs, chopped and mixed with tomatoes are also a nutritious, tasty snack.
 

FoodFit   Do your children enjoy cooking with you? Do they have favorite dishes they like to make?

NORA
POUILLON:

 

Yes. They love to help in all respects—cooking, setting the table, and especially cleaning up. By involving them in the entire process, they get to feel like they're part of the "grown-up world", which makes them feel important and accomplished. They enjoy cutting vegetables, making the salad, seasoning meat and fish. It's great to actually show children how to cook things so they learn to make things themselves. Roasted potatoes, rice and easy desserts are all fun things children can make.
 

FoodFit   Have you ever taught kids how to cook?

NORA
POUILLON:

 

Yes. I was a member of the Chefs Collaborative, a program in conjunction with Oldways, an organization that preserves traditional foods and food customs. The program, directed toward third and fourth graders, taught children about different types of breads and the countries they originated from. Members of the collaborative would go into the schools and assist students in learning about, and then in making different breads characteristic of a particular country. For instance, we made little pizzas for Italy, pita bread for Turkey and Greece, sweet bread from Sweden and tortillas from Mexico. This was a wonderful way to get children involved and interested in both learning about food culture and cooking.
 

Your kids will love Nora's fun and easy recipes:
Soft-Boiled Eggs and Toy Soldiers
Pasta with Heirloom Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella, Basil and Balsamic Vinaigrette

 

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