Nadine Coyle admits the food she ate as a child is vastly different to what her seven-year-old daughter has nowadays.
The former Girls Aloud singer, who was raised in Derry, says: “I come from a small town where it’s very much meat and vegetables – everything’s farm-fresh, but there’s not a lot of variety in foods.”
Coyle, 36, now lives in London with her daughter Anaíya Bell (who she had with ex-fiancé Jason Bell). While she says Anaíya is generally quite “adventurous” when it comes to food, she doesn’t like cheese, eggs or any pork products – and Coyle adds with a laugh: “If we couldn’t eat ham, eggs and cheese [growing up], we may have starved at lunchtime.”
Anaíya definitely enjoys a “wider variety of foods”, says Coyle. “A lot of foods growing up were not available. For example, I didn’t know what an avocado was, I don’t think you could find them in Derry or Donegal when I was growing up” – but Coyle soon stops herself with another chuckle: “I sound like I’m about 90!”
One thing the mother-daughter duo definitely shares is a passion for food. “I love, love, love to cook,” enthuses Coyle. “If I go on holidays and I’m gone for too long, I start to feel really weird. I realised seven or eight years ago it’s because I can’t cook.”
Now, Coyle gets Anaíya in the kitchen as much as possible. Whether it’s making soups or blitzing up smoothies, Anaíya loves getting involved and making up food combinations herself, which Coyle says means “she’ll try everything, because she thinks it’s her recipe – which I find very, very helpful”.
Coyle has been trying to help Anaíya foster a positive relationship with food, particularly in a world where women’s bodies are often overly scrutinised. “It’s so sad when food does become the enemy. I’ve been through that, where you’re thinking, ‘I can’t get the jeans on’, or ‘I’m moving up a size’ – or, in some cases, I’m moving down a size for whatever reason – maybe stress,” Coyle admits.
“Having a good relationship with food is so important, because we have to eat – there’s no way of getting around it,” she says.
“I have never made an issue out of food – if Anaíya wants to have something, I don’t make it an issue. If she wants something sweet – she loves her sweets, she would eat a whole packet of biscuits if she was left to her own devices – I’m like yes, you can have another one, get another one, then OK, that’s enough. Because you don’t want to make yourself sick, and I don’t want you to feel bad for wanting something unhealthy.”
Instead, Coyle is trying to empower Anaíya to make positive choices – which is why she’s looking forward to them using the NHS Food Scanner App together, where you can tap and see what’s actually inside the food you’re eating.
If children are educated about nutritious food from an early age, Coyle says they won’t be “feeling like you’re forcing it on them… So ultimately, in their mind, the decisions are made by themselves. They will be more likely to eat it [healthy food], because it was their decision to go for that.”