What’s for diner tonight maman? Do you, like me, often struggle with the answer? Yamina Bona, Nutritional Therapist in London and mother of 3, author of the blog eat well live well, shares tips and ideas on how to embark on healthy habits, without going mad.

Tell me a little bit about you and how you decided to become a nutritionist?

I became a nutritionist after a first career in marketing.  A stint in Asia offered me the opportunity to rethink my career and pursue an activity that truly suited me.  As I had always been interested in health and nutrition, I knew that that was the perfect avenue for me.  I have never looked back.  Nutrition touches everyone, everywhere, at some level.  It has helped me tweak my eating habits, think about the foods that I give my family and assist others in reaching optimal health.

What is the difference between following a child as a patient and following an adult?

Children are both difficult and easy patients.  They are difficult because you have to establish a rapport straight away.  Children will initially be distrustful about a stranger talking to them about how they are feeling and what foods are good/not good for them.  Once that initial barrier is broken down, the conversation truly starts.  They are also easy patients because they are genuine, truthful and honest.  There is no hidden agenda with children and they will usuallly heed the advice given to them if it comes from a good place.

Did becoming a mother influence your way of eating?

Yes and no.  I already had healthy eating habits before becoming pregnant.  Becoming a mother did make me think more about where our food is coming from.  I definitely eat less meat than before and the meat that I buy comes from a trusted butcher who only provides organic meat.  I also choose the fish we eat wisely.  I avoid large fish (tuna, swordfish) due to their elevated mercury content and I choose sustainable fish and fatty fish for their high omega 3 levels (mackerel, trout, herring).

Can you tell me more about the family eating habits?

I have three children, aged 7 1/2, 5 and 2 1/2.  They are little individuals with different tastes and appetites, which makes planning meals challenging at times.  They do not yet play a big part in meal planning,  although my daughter loves to help me cook.  That is how I learned to cook so I am happy that she takes an interest.  Their favourite foods are undeniably pasta with pesto or tomato sauce, cheese fajitas, egg fried rice, and fish cakes. The foods that my children dislike the most are mostly related to texture or strong taste: mushrooms, beetroot, spinach, parsnip.

 Could you share with us a healthy /easy to make diner recipe that your kids love?

I invite you to check out my blog that has a few recipes for kids.  The corn and prawn cakes are a family favourite:


In your opinion, how do eating habits influence our children and what are the good habits to take?

I am lucky that I do not have a fussy eater in my family.  That is the most challenging hurdle to overcome as a parent.  The advice I always give is that mealtimes should not be a battlefield.  Eating should be associated with pleasant memories.  One should never force a child to eat because they will eat when they are hungry.  I do see a lot of parents giving snacks to their children between meals and that is the biggest culprit in developing bad eating habits.  The child eats a snack that he/she likes (sweet or savoury) and then refuses food at meal times as they are not hungry or not interested. I ask my children to taste everything I put in front of them (and that can be very varied).  If they do not like it, they do not have to eat it but my mantra is that they should at least try it.  If I persist and try that a few times, they eventually develop a taste for it.  I also think that sharing meals with my children is key.  Sitting around the table together and eating together develops a sense of belonging, routine and happy moments.  They will associate eating with good times.

Is it possible to cook healthy meals on a daily basis with only little time?

Yes, cooking does not take a lot of time if you get into the habit of preparing meals.  You have to plan a little bit in advance (have certain staple foods in your pantry and freezer) and know what you are going to prepare on the day.  Making large quantities on the weekend and freezing is always an option.  Or planning easy and quick meals when you know you will have a busy day, and slightly more elaborate meals when you have more time.

What are the key ingredients to always have in the kitchen?

My staple foods in my pantry, fridge and freezer: cherry tomatoes, carrots, frozen peas, frozen fish cakes, pasta, organic pasta sauce, pesto, wraps, cheddar cheese, brown rice, yoghurt, fresh milk, apples, bananas, homemade bread.


What kind of food should be banned from the kitchen ?

Sodas, juices made from concentrate, sugar-laden and chocolate-laden kids’ cereals (go for wheetabix, plain shreddies, porridge, muesli, granola).

What should we be avoiding when grocery shopping?

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS), glucose syrup, sugar syrup, palm oil.

Any food that has sugar or salt as first ingredient.

Most E Numbers, especially E621 (MSG), E900s (sweeteners), E200-E299 (preservatives), E100s (colouring, except E160 (Carotene) and E101 (Riboflavin)).

A cooking book or a blog to recommend?



My favourite cookbooks are Gwyneth Paltrow’s “It’s all good”, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstal’s “Veg”, Peppa Kendrick’s “The intolerant gourmet”.

What are your favorite places to eat in the world?

I am quite a foodie so I love travelling and discovering new places to eat.

Tokyo is my foodie-heaven: Sushi Mizutani, Maisen, Sasahige, Four Seeds.

In New York, I have recently discovered Feel Food and ABC Kitchen, two great places for healthy and nutritious food.

In London, there are too many places to choose from.  Some favourites are: The Grain Store, Trinity, St. John’s, Chez Bruce, Anchor and Hope.

In Paris, I have a weak spot for Spring, Des Gars en Cuisine, Abri.

What are your favorite kids friendly restaurant in London?

My kids always ask to go to the following restaurants in London: GBK (Gourmet Burger Kitchen), Pizza Metro, Carluccio’s.  We take also take them to Mien Tay (Vietnamese) and Lagu (Japanese).

Photo “Fruit Seed” by Joachim Lapotre.