TV presenter and cook Nadia Sawalha is mum to Maddy, eight and Kiki, four and is step-mum to two older girls with her husband, Mark.
We sat down with her to talk life with her fast-growing girls, shifting the baby weight in the spotlight, and why she won't be serving up 'earwax' brussel sprouts this Christmas...
Your girls are growing up fast, how is family life?
Busy! I actually have four girls as I have two older step-children, and then Maddy and Kiki, so four aged four to 18, and just two bathrooms! As you can imagine it's not nearly enough...
How do you cope being a working mum?
It is certainly a juggling act. But my nephews live next door, and mum is the other side so we all share everything day to day. Mums around the country will hate me for the convenience but we've opened the fence joining the gardens so the kids can come back and forth between the two houses.
If the girls don't like what I'm cooking then they nip next door to find out what's on the menu before the decide where to eat!
Is that how you work childcare?
It helps, but we do have a nanny, who has been with us since Maddy was born and is absolutely fabulous! I think you have to be careful with grandparents and not take advantage. My mum still loves having the odd gin and dancing on a table so we have Pat who is just brilliant and part of the family. The other day I came home and Maddy said, "Oh mum you're back, I was just having a lovely story with Pat!"
There's a couple of years between Maddy and Kiki, do they get on?
Brilliantly! I feel bad saying it but I'm so glad I have girls and not boys! With girls you can sit them down together with a few toys and they stay there and play together, using their imagination and keeping themselves occupied. It's great having a few years between them too as Maddy is so fab with Kiki, and is old enough to set up all the games and help her little sister out.
Maddy turns nine on Christmas Day, how will you be celebrating?
We usually go away for Christmas, sometimes to Cornwall, but she's banned us as she's getting older and wants to celebrate at home. So this year we're having a full family Christmas at home, and then around 4pm on Christmas Day we'll turn the house and celebrations into full-on birthday mode. A good friend of mine was also born on Christmas Day and helpfully gave me a list of things we couldn't do, like joint presents, no birthday card. She also has a proper party half way through the year, like the Queen, so she doesn't miss out on a party with her friends as organising something at Christmas with other children is a nightmare.
Are you an organised or manic mum in the lead up to Christmas?
I'm actually quite organised this year, but it's a novelty as I'm normally sweating on 22nd buying any old crap! This year it's all been bought online in advance as I'm working a lot just before the big day. In the downstairs' loo there are loads of boxes piled up, and the kids have been brilliant and haven't even peeked...not that I know of...
What's on the Christmas menu in your household?
We usually go traditional but I'm getting a bit bored of a turkey roasts so I'm thinking about a Middle Eastern mezze feast for us all to enjoy.
Any tips to make traditional roasts a bit special for Christmas?
Well I brine my turkey like Nigella the night before but there are loads of simple tricks to try, especially with the veg. Try adding shallots to carrots with a dash of parsley, and add nuts and dried apricots to shop-bought stuffing.
Will sprouts be making an appearance at your table?
Yuck! I hate sprouts! They taste like earwax so I would never make my kids eat them. My sister has a good recipe that just about makes them bearable - she mashes them with cream and parsley, but generally they really aren't for me.
You're supporting Edam's campaign to get more calcium into children's diets, how do you make sure you and your children are getting enough?
When I was growing up I never had cheese, milk and cream as I wanted to be slim. Even when Maddy was born I didn't have it in the house and I worry she didn't get enough calcium in her early years. Now I make sure it's all of our diets. The girls have a small piece of cheese and an apple as a snack, and there are plenty of other sources of calcium to try. Kale, green leafy veg and dried fruits are good extras. Exercise is also so important for children to build good, strong bones so we try and be as active as possible too.
Do your girls like cooking?
I try but they're not really interested at the moment. To my absolute horror, Kiki has no appetite and Maddy just wants to eat spaghetti! When I was presenting Junior Masterchef I'd come home and try and get them involved in the evening, but Maddy wasn't having any of it and said, "Mummy, how long is this job? Do we have to do this forever?"
How are you encouraging Kiki to eat?
I'm never strict with food, but I try and jazz up meals with different things to make them interesting. We also always sit down together and eat a nice, well-cooked meal together to make it enjoyable family time which I think is so important. With Kiki I encourage her with words and examples, things like "do you want to grow strong, beat the boys and run faster? Then here's what you need to eat". It sounds awful but manipulation works well with children!
Your weight loss post-babies has been well documented in the press, how do you maintain your weight and figure now?
It's all about buying the right trousers! For years I denied myself food then binged on all my favourites, then constantly dieted afterwards. I then got to an age where I realised I can eat exactly what I want, but in moderation, and that is the key. Exercise is obviously important too, and it really helps to find something you like and do it because you want to do it, not because you have to. For me it's running which I do a lot, and I have just signed up to do the London marathon for the second time to have something to aim for.
So four girls in your house, ever been tempted to try for a boy?
No I am not! I'm too old and my family is complete
What's your favourite thing about being a mum? That I get to laugh with them every single day. Everybody says how wonderful motherhood is when you're pregnant, but no one ever says how much you will laugh your head off when you have children.
What's the worst thing?
Being constantly tired. I am always utterly exhausted. My contact lenses are curling on my eyeballs I'm so knackered! Yesterday I was up at 5.15am for work, and Kiki was in my bed all night waking me up. I was nearly in tears in the car on the way to work!
Have got any energy tips to share?
Eat five times a day, drink lots of water, exercise and have an excellent supply of alcohol four times at a week!
Nadia Sawalha is launching the Dutch Edam storybook 'The Mouse That Learnt To Love Cheese' to educate children on the importance of a calcium-rich diet. All proceeds will go to the National Osteoporosis Society. To order the book visit Edam.co.uk.
Suggested For You
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements. Learn more