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Domenica Catelli

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Organic Chef

In this interview, Chef Domenica Catelli shares her thoughts on packing healthy lunches that kids will enjoy.

domenica catelliQ: What advice do you have for parents looking to pack healthy lunches for their school-aged children?

DC: Get them to pick a fresh fruit or vegetable that they will enjoy eating (and won't end up in the garbage). If you cut them up, be careful of fruit that gets squishy, and go with sliced apples, grapes, pineapple, and pears--these all tend to hold their shape and texture.

 Make hearty soups and stews and send in the winter. You can pack them with veggies, legumes and healthy grains like quinoa or brown rice.

Q: What suggestions do you have for parents who are considering “going organic?”

DC: First of all, congratulations--you will not only be helping the environment but supporting companies who are doing great things and entering a world of parents, scientists, and companies who are working together to help us all live healthier lives.

As a chef, I only use organic produce since it tastes so much better than conventional. You can do a taste test with cherry tomatoes or strawberries and see for yourself!

 As a mom, I really encourage new moms to try organic. Organic is so important for the health of your young ones. Studies show that pesticides can disproportionately impact children, given the amount of food and drink they intake (for their relative size) and that they have young organs that are still developing.

 Organic is good for the whole family. Studies also show that the benefits of organics include increased nutrition, decreased exposure to harmful pesticides, decrease in allergies, obesity, and eczema.

Q: Do you have any recipes that you would recommend that parents try if their children are resistant to eating fruits and vegetables?

DC: Veggie Sticks with Creamy Dill Dipping Sauce. There is a tip with this--DON'T ASK! Never ask a child if they want cut up veggies and dip--they will most likely say no. Just have a plate of colorful, cut-up veggies with this healthy dip and put it out when your kids are the hungriest: After school, before or after a sports event, before dinner, etc. and watch them polish it off!

 Also try my Blackberry Flaxseed Smoothie and my Pumpkin Penne Pasta.

Tip: Get the kids involved at the grocery store or in planting a small garden. Have them pick a vegetable or fruit by first picking a color (try something red! radish, grape tomato, strawberries, etc.).

Tip: Kids eat what you eat, so be a good role model and make sure they see you eating your veggies! if you have young children, always give them a taste of what you are having, and don't give up. It can take between 3-10 times to get a child's taste buds developed.

Q: What can parents do if they want to incorporate more organic but also want to keep costs down?

DC: Look for sale specials. Many times you can find sales on organic that make it the same price or less than that of non-organic products

 Utilize the bulk departments for dry goods, which can be considerably less expensive

 Look for private labels in large grocery stores--they tend to be very competitive in price

 Make food with inexpensive organic items like beans, grains, and legumes

Q: Where can parents go if they are looking to buy organic products to pack in their children’s lunches?

DC: All grocery stores and even mega stores like Target and Wal-mart carry many organic choices. Gone are the days that you were limited in choices to small health food markets.

Be sure to check out this clip from the CBS Early Show to see more of Domenica's tips on packing healthy lunches.

About Domenica Catelli:
Domenica Catelli has positively influenced the way millions of families eat and prepare food across the United States with her tasty, easy, and healthy approach to cooking. Her claim to fame is getting children to eat rare vegetables like Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard and cauliflower, without hiding the ingredients!

Domenica is the national spokesperson for the Organic Trade Association’s national campaign, “Go Organic! for Earth Day.” She is a recurring judge on Iron Chef America, a guest on CBS News, “Oprah and Friends,” with Dr. Oz on XM radio, and has been featured in Vegetarian Times, Kiwi Magazine, and Oprah.com. She was a featured chef on Fox News in Houston for years on the "Fox Grill," educating viewers with her ingenuity and humor. Celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Julia Roberts, Thandie Newton, and John Travolta have enjoyed her food.

Her first cookbook, “Mom-a-licious: Fresh, fast, family food for the hot mama in you!” published in Fall 2007, was an instant hit across the nation. More than a cookbook, “Mom-a-licious” captures the heart of healthy eating for families and a “stick with it” mentality that leads to less fussy eating for children.  

Renowned physicians such as Stanford pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene, Dr. Sears, Dr. Dean Ornish, and “America’s Favorite Doctor,” Dr. Mehmet Oz sing her praise:

In Mom-a-licious, Domenica provides wonderful solutions to mothers who want to feed their families healthier food and seek delicious recipes that are easy to prepare. Women looking to reduce their waistlines will find plenty of recipes in here that are preservative-free, low in sugar and heart healthy.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, Best-Selling Author and Cardiothoracic Surgeon

Domenica is a member of the chef advisory board of the non-profit organization Common Threads along with other celebrity chefs including Jamie Oliver, Paula Deen, and Tyler Florence. Over her career, many exclusive chefs have turned to her expertise when developing recipes. Domenica's contributions are celebrated in the James Beard award-winning cookbook, Back to the Table, by Art Smith and can be found on products in thousands of grocery stores nationwide.

During her childhood in Sonoma county wine country, her senses were filled with the memories of fresh, seasonal food. She has created unforgettable menus for several restaurants in California from Laguna Beach to the beautiful Mendocino coast, where she served as executive chef of the organic restaurant Raven’s at the Stanford Inn with featured recipes from the estate’s three-acre garden. Now, as a devoted mother she shares her inspiration and skills with families throughout the country. Whether she is teaching children and communities through organizations such as Recipe for Success, or creating easy guides for healthy nutrition and living, Domenica Catelli continues to bring the joys of being momalicious into her own family and into the lives of others.