Leah Chandler, Family Fitness Expert and Founder of Kids Fit Australia and Family Fit Online shares her tips for healthy pantry staples and what to add to your family shopping list.
Leah states: "I have a family of five and with 1 growing teenager and two children with special needs, shopping and cooking for the household can be an interesting experience!
Our life is stupidly busy, and I have learnt to stock my pantry with certain things that make planning and making main meals and snacks a little easier, plus things that make sense for our health!"
Here are just a few of the things that you can always find in my pantry:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Not only is this oil fabulous for cooking in general and making great salad dressings, it has anti-inflammatory properties. It also strengthens your immune system.
This oil eases digestion and has amazing benefits for your skin! Plus it has properties that boost your immunity and metabolism. I am intolerant to dairy, so I use it in my black coffee every morning…it adds a lovely flavor to it! It is also great to use in slices, protein balls etc.
Apple Cider Vinegar
This vinegar is known to reduce appetite and cravings, plus aids digestion and lowers bad cholesterol. It can be used in cooking and salads, plus it also works as an all-purpose housecleaner!
Passata traditional tomato cooking sauce
I have this in my pantry always! For days where I aim limited on cooking time, this sauce is great for whipping up a quick pasta sauce or stew! Always look for good quality sauce without preservatives!
These are for the times that a quick salad is on the cards or perhaps for a yummy wrap for the kids' lunch boxes.
A good quality mayonnaise added into a salad or with tuna or salmon can make all the difference in flavour and texture! Also, it makes a fantastic curried egg mix!
Brown rice has a nice nutty flavor that can be used with all sorts of dishes. It has properties that can improve your digestive and heart health, amongst other things! It is also easy to store.
Gluten Free Pasta
Kids love pasta, and in my household there is sensitivity to gluten so we always look for a good quality rice pasta. We have this about once a week and that seems to keep the kids happy!
Almonds are high in healthy fats, fibre, protein and various important nutrients, plus they taste great! They can be used in cooking and for a healthy snack for the kids and parents!
Himalayan Pink Sea Salt
This has lots of great minerals that help maintain strong bones, connective tissues, muscle regeneration and blood circulation. I add a teaspoon of salt to a water bottle anytime my kids are playing sport or I am at the gym. This has great properties to keep you hydrated for longer and helps keep cramps at bay!
100% Coconut Cream
You can also add a teaspoon in oatmeal instead of milk, or blend it up with frozen fruit and then freeze it as ice-creams! It adds flavour and has great anti-inflammatory and aids digestion! It can also be used in many dishes.
This has properties that can aid in regulation of blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol. It can also aid digestion as well. We also use this for rehydration when our kids are playing sport in the hot sun, as well as making ice-blocks with it (just add fruit and maybe sneak a little spinach / kale in there too, blend it up and freeze!)
We are always having oatmeal in our house! It is a good source of fiber, protein and good fats and is loaded with vitamins and minerals. Plus, oatmeal is so easy to make and very inexpensive!
You can also add oats to healthy snacks such as slices, protein balls, on top of yoghurt or to fruit salad.
Question: How do you keep your grocery bill down, even with a big family?
Leah Chandler: I buy what I can in bulk and shop for most things at ALDI. I also purchase fruit and vegetables from a well-priced, wholesale grocer.
Question: What inspired you to create Kids Fit Australia and Family Fit Online?
Leah Chandler: We have always been passionate about keeping fit and well, and we have three children, with two of them on the autism spectrum. Through our journey with them, we discovered that there were a lot of kids out there that had behavioural, social and coordination issues so we created our school fitness, yoga and wellbeing programs to work with mainstream and special need schools, childcare centres and appropriate organisations. We like to work towards a common goal with these organisations to be part of the solution to the large obesity and depression epidemic sweeping Australia.
Our Family Fit Online program was created because we were asked by many families for something online that they could do with their families in their own time. We also surveyed the community to see what they wanted out of our families program. We got great feedback and created our program around this.
Question: Can you tell us about Kids Fit Australia and Family Fit Online?
Leah Chandler: Kids-Fit is all about keeping kids and families fit for everyday life! We have a saying about 'nobody gets left behind' which includes all family members and kids in general. This means having fun and being happy that members of the family or class just participate and they don't have to feel they have to be fabulous at it, and do it at their own pace. We want to bring the fun back into fitness and wellbeing programs, while being part of a bigger purpose! Kids are so honest, and they just want to be listened to and feel safe. Everyone, including kids, is on their own fitness and wellbeing journey!
Family-Fit Online is a program with quite a difference to the online programs out there. Most of the programs are targeted directly at mums and may include some family aspects, however, our program is directed at the whole family. We provide simple workouts, fun games, recipe recommendations and other mindfulness, wellbeing and handy tips for everyone in the household.
We provide bite-size information daily so that families are happy to read it, implement what they choose and feel like they aren't getting bombarded by the media to live and do things a certain way. We want to take the pressure out of being healthy and well, and give the power back to families to choose their own path.
Question: Why do you choose gluten-free pasta?
Leah Chandler: Our preference is gluten-free pasta (rice pasta). We choose to use this in our household as we have family members who are intolerant to gluten and wheat, and kids love pasta!
Question: What are some of the most common meals you cook?
Leah Chandler: Spaghetti Bolognaise is a big favourite in our household! We always cook extra to freeze and for the kids to take for school lunches. We also do a lot of roasts as you can roast lots of veges together and have a great cut of meat to use for dinner and any extra can be used in dishes or lunches during the week.
Question: How do you ensure your family gets a wide-range of vegetables?
Leah Chandler: We have sensory kids in our household, so we had to learn to be creative! We put lots of finally chopped veges in stews and pasta sauces as we know they won't be able to pick it out! We also make sure that we always have whatever fruit the kids like in the house.
Question: What is your favourite snack?
Leah Chandler: Rice cakes with crunchy peanut butter!
Question: Can you share a typical days food plan, with us?
Leah Chandler: Sure, this is a typical day for our family, with some changes depending on sensory needs and likes etc.
1 or 2 boiled eggs, some avocado, half a small banana with plain cinnamon, one spoon of plain greek yoghurt or coconut yoghurt.
Rice cakes with peanut butter
Left over dinner from the night before (could be bolognaise, stew, meat and veges, roast)
Cut up veges and dip (normally carrot, cucumber, capsicum)
Some fruit, cheese and sultanas if still hungry (I have teenagers in the house…they are always hungry!)
Bolognaise with rice pasta (gluten free)
Bolognaise (beef mince, onion, garlic, spinach, kale, mushrooms and any other veges I may have in the fridge)
Interview by Brooke Hunter