Life is all change for TV host and food writer Donal Skehan. A move to Los Angeles four years ago shook things up, but the real whirlwind was the arrival of his son, Noah, 16 months ago.
“I had no idea that it would change our lives as dramatically as it did — but all for the better,” he tells Feelgood.
Becoming new parents away from home was also a challenge but Donal and his wife Sofie have now built up a support system and, with family visiting all the time, things have got much easier.
It helps that little Noah is following in his father’s footsteps — he’s a little foodie who loves to watch his dad cook.
“He’s never been a fussy eater. He’ll try anything from onions to carrots to spicy foods,” his dad says.
The couple are also advocates of baby-led weaning, which means they put all kinds of food in front of Noah and let him explore them.
That has been really successful for us. He definitely seems to have an interest in food and he wants to sit beside me as I’m cooking in the kitchen.
"If he’s watched you make it, he’s dying to try it,” the best-selling food author says.
It’s not all plain sailing, though, as parents of any toddler know. One day bananas are in, the next they are not and Noah is very vocal about his likes and dislikes.
“It’s trial and error, but it’s wonderful when you see him tucking into something that you’ve made from scratch. I can’t take all the credit, though, as Sofie does a lot of batch-cooking.”
The key to eating well, he adds, is good preparation. Like many young couples, the Skehans are constantly on the go and they find they make food choices that are less good when they don’t have time to prep.
Getting Noah to toddler stage has been a wonderful adventure, though, and that is why Donal agreed to be part of this year’s Big Toddle for Barnardos sponsored by Danone, Ireland’s biggest sponsored walk for under-fives.
“It felt like such a lovely campaign to be a part of. It’s great to have a moment where you can celebrate toddlers and do it for a good cause,” he says.
He’s back in Ireland to support Barnardos, the charity that works with more than 15,000 children and families in 40 centres across Ireland. Then, it’s on to London, Bali, Malaysia, Singapore and New York before touching down in LA.
He finds the travel challenging: “The one thing I really crave is just being home and cooking a home-cooked meal. People wonder what to eat. Home-cooking; that is the secret. You know what’s going into it and you have complete control over it. I have been harping on about that for the last ten years,” he says.
Having said that, he has introduced changes to his diet in that time too: the move to LA has significantly broadened the range of cuisines open to him and Sofie.
They live just 15 minutes away from some of the best Ethiopian and Thai food, for instance, and, if the mood takes them, they can opt to go super-healthy with tahini milkshakes and vegan tacos.
What I find fascinating is that all these different diets and fads sit quite happily beside one another. There is a Thai vegan restaurant down the road and next door there’s this brand-new burger shop. It’s a complete contrast.
Despite the broad range of ingredients, he says he finds American supermarkets can be a minefield when it comes to finding traceable, quality ingredients.
"And he and his family are certainly paying more attention to what they eat.
“I am eating less meat and when I do, it’s of higher quality. I’m trying to fill my plate with vegetables rather than carbohydrates and if I have carbs, I have whole grains.”
Eating the best-quality food will be the focus of Donal’s new cookbook, Superfood in Minutes, out in November.
In the meantime, keep an eye on his YouTube channel where a new series will be coming up soon.