Article - Mike van de Elzen’s recipe for healthy change

Mike van de Elzen’s recipe for healthy change

If you spend ages trying to make healthy food, or choose unhealthy takeaways because they’re more convenient, you might be pleased to hear that fast food doesn’t need to be unhealthy. That’s the message from TV chef and author Mike van de Elzen, who says he’s made a variety of lifestyle changes for balance and health, including switching the products used in his household.

Mike is known to many Kiwis as the face of the Food Truck TV series. After learning his trade in kitchens from age 14 and during an OE in London, he and wife Belinda opened Molten restaurant in Auckland in 2004.

He recently spoke to us at his newly-opened chicken restaurant Boy and Bird (co-owned with Marie Colosimo), where the ethos is similar to the one laid out in his latest cookbook, Fast. Boy and Bird is a place he hopes families can come to for healthy food for young and old alike, recognising many families don’t have lots of time to spend on dinner.

The book has a section devoted to recipes for kids, something that’s become more important to Mike since the birth of his daughters Hazel, who’s now a toddler, and her younger sister Ivy.

Mike and Belinda tried to start a family during their time running Molten, and went through what Mike describes as a harrowing and drawn out experience undergoing IVF. Mike says it was his sister who suggested examining his lifestyle at the time to see where he could make healthy changes.

“We looked at each other and we were working too hard. We were stressed out and not sleeping,” says Mike, adding he and Belinda often worked more than 100 hours a week and weren’t exercising or eating well. “Add all that together and it wasn’t a very good concoction,” he says.

Each cut their working hours, and Mike is now a mountain biker. He says they also switched to healthy eating and “took all the bad stuff and chemicals out of my house”, bringing ecostore products in to replace other household products they’d been using. Mike says he had large rashes on his legs, which he attributes to the washing machine detergent he was using before he made the switch.

Mike credits all these lifestyle changes as a big factor in the success of their next attempt at IVF, after the couple took time off work.

He says in the foreword to Fast: “Bee [Belinda] and I are convinced that Hazel came into being because we’d both taken a long hard look at the toll that running the restaurant at 120 per cent was taking on our bodies.”

He loved talking to children about healthy food as he travelled around filming the Food Truck and now plans to tour provincial New Zealand educating kids about healthy cooking.

In the book, Mike says he takes it as a compliment that he knows how to hide vegetables in all the recipes for kids. “Your kids can be served interesting food; you don’t have to cook down to them.”

Mike’s Up and Go style ‘Wake Up shake’

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2 weetbix - optional
  • 2 cups of almond milk
  • 2 Tbsp raw cacao powder or cacao nibs
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 4 cubes of ice if want a cold shake

Blend and enjoy!

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