By Nicole Berrie
Photography by Sasha Israel
“BROOKLYN MOMS TEND TO HAVE MORE OF A RELAXED MENTALITY ABOUT EVERYTHING,” says Rebecca Sinn Kelly from her Brooklyn Heights home nestled on a tree-lined block, just a stone’s throw away a swarm of locavore-approved, farm-to-table canteens and independently owned boutiques. It is, after all, Brooklyn. “The mothers in my book club get everything used,” the new mother muses. “When I first had Jack, I was a bit more rigid, like, ‘I’m not getting a used crib, you gotta be crazy.’ I realized that is more of a Manhattan thing. Brooklyn moms get a crib twenty-five steps removed and they’re fine with it.” As for the GLAMOUR entertainment editor, since giving birth to son Jack six months ago, her parental duties (which she shares with husband and New York Times editor Jon Kelly) fall somewhere between Type A Manhattanite and millenial neo-bohemian. Rather than relying on store-bought bottles of formula or jars of Gerber baby food, Kelly is happy to hit her neighborhood’s farmer’s market to make homemade sweet potato puree. When it comes to Jack’s wardrobe choices, she eschews neighbor hand-me-downs for Soho-based cotton couture. Where does she stand on diapers? “We tried every eco-friendly diaper out there,” she laments. “None of them worked so we’re back to Pampers.” Below, we spent the afternoon with Kelly who whipped up sweet potato harissa sandwiches and revealed her favorite healthy hideouts, food trends in Hollywood and why she no longer allows herself to overdose on kale.
What food did you first introduce to Jack?
The first food we introduced was avocado. It’s filled with tons of nutrients and is very easy for babies to digest. A lot of people start with cereal but there’s no nutritional value in cereal. We mash up avocado, make it really soft and mix a little breast milk with it.
What’s the reasoning behind mixing it with breast milk?
They’re familiar with the breast milk taste. In the beginning you make it more soupy so they’re used to having it and they’ll just play with it in their mouth. We’ve slowly reduced the amount of milk so we would do 2-3 tablespoons of food and 2 ounces of breast milk. Then we give him a teaspoon of applesauce afterwards to help him go to the bathroom, which my nanny taught me.
Where do you stand on the debate between formula and breast feeding?
I like to know what’s going in my body and I like to know what’s going in his body. When I think of formula just sitting on the shelf, it’s very unattractive. I don’t know what’s in there. He was diagnosed with a few allergies when he was born so I cut out dairy and soy in my diet entirely. I can control the nutrients he’s getting. If I’m getting something, he’s getting something. I’m lucky and fortunate to have the supply so I’d rather just go with it. At this point, it feels selfish for me to stop.
And you prefer to make your own food than buy it in the jar?
Even with some of those cans being all natural, I still feel, cost-wise, if you’re just going to the farmer’s market and you can get 4 sweet potatoes, that’s a $1.10 and you enough for him for 2 ½ to 3 weeks. Why wouldn’t you just do that as opposed to having something that just sat on the shelf for the same cost, if not more? You can see exactly what’s gone into it.
Are there any tenets you abide by when feeding him?
I try and eat really healthy even more than I did when I was pregnant because he’s really developing now. Consistency is key. When you eat consistently, you go to the bathroom consistently, your habits are consistent and I would think the same thing is going to happen for him.
Take us through a typical day in the life with meals?
I have the same thing for breakfast and lunch everyday. Quaker Oats oatmeal with maple syrup and water and this amazing matcha tea from Perelandra with rice milk. For lunch, I have a salad with avocado or an avocado sandwich. The salad is really filling with either roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes, egg, garbanzo beans and I just do lemon juice and olive oil. For dinner, we’ll make quinoa pasta or I will make fish. One of my favorite recipes is Food52’s one pot kale and quinoa pilaf. It’s quinoa with steamed kale, pine nuts and feta cheese on top with olive oil and lemon juice and you mix it all up.
Has Jon been influenced by your healthy lifestyle?
He definitely pays more attention of what goes into his diet. I made him one of these sandwiches the other night. He said to me afterwards, “I felt so good after I ate that sandwich. I didn’t feel heavy, I didn’t get a food hangover.” That’s a perfect example of how the sandwich worked for him and his body accepted it. When you feel like you’re in a food coma, your body is rejecting it. Even with hot dogs, I’ll buy some really fancy hot dog that is made from grass-fed beef and he’ll say, “I can totally taste the difference.”
Has your diet changed since having Jack?
Before him, I used to be a huge tofu and seitan. I cut all of that out because they’re just as processed as all these products on the shelf that I’m avoiding. I always used to get the Live Earth Salad from Siggy’s with Tofu Fingers and I would get that two times a week. I didn’t realize until I really cut it out how much of a negative effect soy had on me. Even with sushi, I just put ginger on it, I don’t think you need the sauce.
Are there any other foods that you avoid?
I’ve always had issues digesting meat and dairy. Once I got sick from chicken and I looked up how it’s often prepared and I got turned off. I cut it out for a month and I never looked back.
Have you had to cut favorite things out of your diet to accommodate Jack?
They say in the beginning, be weary of gassy foods like cauliflower and kale. I always ate a lot of kale. When I was in the hospital, all I was craving was a kale salad from the Juice Press. So the next day after I gave birth, my family got me four and I housed all of them. The nurse comes in and was like, “That’s going to rip a hole through your body and his too.” All of a sudden, I had to be really careful. I’ve slowly reintroduced them back into my diet but I won’t overdose on Brussels sprouts or lentils now.
Favorite foodie/cooking sites?
I like that Food52 cultivates readers to participate. It’s easier and more approachable to me. I don’t get intimidated by a reader’s recipe. I also love Kitchy Kitchen, Gather and Kinfolk.
Do you have any chef crushes?
I love the girl who started Brucie in Cobble Hill. She uses her family’s lasagna recipes and you can bring your pot there, drop it off and they’ll fill it. What she does with lasagna is an art form. She turned me on to those San Marzano tomatoes. I pretty much only cook with those now.
What is your favorite dish to make when entertaining?
I oven roast heirloom tomatoes with garlic and olive oil until they blister. Then I throw in tons of olives and capers and nestle in white fish. It’s really pretty when it comes out. My other favorite thing is to make a faux ceaser salad with a soaked cashew dressing.
What do you notice is the big divide between Brooklyn and Manhattan moms?
I was in a book club in Brooklyn where a number of people had their own compost. I asked my Manhattan friends about it and they were like, “You’re crazy. I’m not saving my garbage.” It’s the same way for baby stuff. Brooklyn moms buy everything used. If a crib came 25 steps removed, they’re fine with it. Even having a diaper bag. Here, a lot of my Brooklyn friends just use a canvas tote that we all have a million of.
What diet trends have you noticed in Hollywood?
In the last two years, the big trends are wheat-free diets and food delivery services. We had one person who we shot recently where we basically had to stock a mini fridge of their random requests because they were on some crazy strict diet. But basically they need to be healthy.
Do you have a healthy game plane when doing “work drinks”?
It’s about going to a place you’re familiar with or being the person who suggests the place. I do a lot more breakfasts because they are easier to control. Hotels are the most accommodating. If I go for drinks, I always opt for red wine.
Did you workout while you’re pregnant?
Before I had Jack, I did a lot of running and strength training with a trainer. When I was pregnant, I tried to work out, but I did not want to be one of those people running with a huge belly. I would get anxious and I didn’t feel that mentally I was getting the satisfaction that one works out to get. I did so prenatal yoga almost every Saturday. My favorite thing was put your hand to your heart and your hand to your baby. I really loved that connection.
What’s your fitness regime as a new mom?
When I got the ok to workout, I still couldn’t get motivated, I found it really difficult. I used to say. When I was at the gym, I wish I had a shirt that said, “I had a baby two months ago,” because when you’re breast-feeding, the amount of liquid in your breasts fluctuates. I was so self-conscious. Then a friend of mine said, “You should really just try Soul Cycle.” I went with her and she was so right. To be in that room and to let go everything, I now do it twice a week.
Do you have any rules in the house?
No screens or iPads two hours before bed.
With two parents in media, we bet he has a future in publishing!
Jon reads him the newspaper headlines every morning. I read Where the Sidewalk Ends in four different accents and get all animated. Jon reads the strict stuff in one voice. I think it’s more fun my way, but it’s a good balance.
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