South Florida Parenting
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'Top Chef' helped prepare Miami mom for parenting

“Top Chef” contestant Janine Booth isn’t just the executive chef of Miami’s Stiltsville Fish Bar, which she runs with her fiancé and fellow “Top Chef” alum, Jeff McInnis. She is also mom to 20-month-old daughter Sunny Harper Rose and 6-year-old Bryce, McInnis’ daughter from a previous relationship.

The Australian born and bred mama recently dished on how to get healthier foods into children’s diets, which baby products she couldn’t live without and how being a chef helped prepare her for motherhood.

“As Sunny gets older, she’s able to pick up skills. I sit her in the high chair in the kitchen, and she watches me and takes it all in. She’s so clever,” Booth said. “I explain to her what I’m doing as I’m cooking. She’s slowly expanding her vocab with food words. She really gets excited with food.”

Booth emphasizes the importance of getting children in on the kitchen action as soon as possible to get them excited about making meals.

“We have a play set of fake food and a food truck she loves to play with. Pizza and ice cream are her favorite, so we’re working on the veggies right now,” Booth said. “Bryce is at a stage where she can help a lot even with setting the table, and she has a gluten allergy, so we’ll bake in the kitchen together and we’ll bake something gluten-free to take to a birthday party.”

Experimenting with almond flour and replacing refined sugars with honey and using wholesome ingredients, Booth has found a way to give her children natural energy rather than a sugar high.

“Sugar does so much to young minds, so we try to use natural sugars in our house, and it’s better for us, too,” Booth said. “We also roast vegetables. I explain ‘This is a carrot,’ and we taste it. We talk about what each thing tastes like and ask about textures. ‘Is it crunchy? Is it smooth?’ ”

As children get older, however, especially around ages 3 to 5, Booth admits they can tend to get more picky.

“I always have this thing where I make one meal for the family, and if you try everything on your plate just once, then I’m happy,” Booth said. “My advice to other parents out there who have picky eaters is to keep reintroducing foods and not making a big deal about it. If you don’t like it, I completely understand, but just give it a try. Usually they'll like 75 percent of what’s on their plate.”

Competing against 18 other chefs in New Orleans in 2013 for “Top Chef” helped prepare Booth for the relentlessly unpredictable ride of motherhood.

“Being a chef, in general, definitely prepared me for motherhood because you have to juggle many things at one moment and multitask,” Booth said. “You’re always on some time constraint. There’s not enough time in the day. I feel like it definitely prepared me in some way. In addition to being a mom now, I still have all the same responsibilities I did before.”

Booth is also extremely organized, which is a priceless parenting skill.

“I already planned my week for next week,” said Booth, who is also grateful to have the help of a nanny. “I plan out my days when I’m going to be at home working or at the restaurant. I can do a lot of what we need for our company at home. Jeff is more the warrior in the kitchen, grinding day-to-day behind the stove, and two or three days a week, I’m on-site at the restaurant.”

Stiltsville Fish Bar in the Sunset Harbour area of Miami Beach has Southern and Miami influences »

Prepping meals in advance has also helped Booth and her family save on expenses.

“I look at what’s on sale and try to buy organic just because it’s better, but it doesn’t always happen. I look at Whole Foods or Publix and look at what’s on sale and plan around that,” Booth said. “On Sunday, when I put Sunny down for a nap, I’ll take two hours and do meal prep for the week so I can pull things out when I need them.”

The family travels frequently, visiting Australia, New York and Puerto Rico.

“I prepare ahead with lots of healthy snacks and things to play with for the kids,” Booth said. “I’m also not one to let the kids play too much on an iPad or watch too much TV. We only use iPads while traveling, and we don’t allow any iPads at the dinner table. Dinner time is family time and a very sacred time for us together. We talk about anything and everything and about how our day was and how we’re feeling.”

Parenting has helped Booth whittle down a list of go-to items. Here are the three items Booth can’t live without:

1. Coconut oil. “It is amazing. I would brush Sunny’s teeth and gums with it when she was really little. It’s also great to massage them from head to toe, and Sunny had cradle cap and coconut oil really helped it. I’d also put it on her after a bath.”

2. Organic Breathe Easy Rub by The Honest Co. “I love those natural breathe-easy rubs for when they’re a little stuffy. I’ll put it on her chest and back and soles of her feet to clear out her nose.”

3. Baby Bjorn Soft Bibs. “They catch everything so it doesn’t end up on the floor, and my dog, who has terrible food allergies, doesn’t end up eating it.”

Joanie Cox-Henry writes “Mod Mom Out,” a monthly column from a misfit Boca Raton mama who shares current trends, places to go, rants and epiphanies on the parenting path.

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