Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘It really is a great feeling to be able to help other parents.’

Merrick

“In sixth grade, for my yearbook, they asked, ‘What do you want to be when you’re older?’ and I said I wanted to be a chef. I loved watching my grandmother and grandfather cook. I wanted to go to culinary school, but I ended up going to a four-year college. I was looking for a creative outlet, but when I became a stay-at-home mom, everything stopped, and it was a big life change. It was just diapers and feeding, and you get wrapped up in it; you kind of lose yourself.

“I started my recipe blog in 2017. I share nutritious family-friendly recipes, mom hacks, tips to get your kids to eat veggies and fruits, and ways to incorporate your kids in the meal-prep process. When I started the blog, my daughter was 18 months old, and I was newly pregnant with my son. She loved being involved. Her name is Liv, and that’s where I got the name of the blog, LivLaughCook. It started just as an Instagram page, and one year, for Mother’s Day, my husband created a website for me. I get messages and questions from other parents, and it motivates me to keep creating. It really is a great feeling to be able to help other parents.

“I want to see kids eating nutritious meals, especially because I had a really unhealthy relationship with food. I spiraled with yo-yo dieting, and I got caught up in the diet-culture world as a teenager. Just drinking coffee for breakfast was a type of diet for my generation. I had no idea what the proper way to eat was, and it only got worse throughout college. When I met my husband, he said my eating habits weren’t healthy. I didn’t want my children to follow what I did. I wanted to break the mold. It’s really important that they learn healthy eating habits from the start so they don’t fall into that diet culture. I don’t even want those words mentioned in my house. I don’t want my kids to ever think about being skinny or wanting to diet. I want them to eat healthy foods because it makes them strong. I tell them certain foods will make them fast in gym class or will help their brain function so they can figure out math problems.”

I don’t want my kids to ever think about being skinny or wanting to diet. I want them to eat healthy foods because it makes them strong.

“Kids can be picky, so I had to get creative. We shredded carrots and put them in cookies, and since Liv was involved in the process and helped make them, she ate them. My son wanted to get involved immediately. We started slow. When they’re younger, it’s basically just mixing, pouring and measuring out ingredients. When they got a bit older, I started teaching them more skills, like cracking eggs and using kid-friendly knives for chopping. A big part of it for them is this sense of accomplishment of being able to do it on their own. It’s also a bonding experience for all of us when we’re spending time together in the kitchen.

“My daughter’s only 6, but I see that she actually enjoys spinach in her smoothies. I find that if you start early on, their taste buds follow. My son is very into sweets, so we make muffins, pancakes and cookies. We always incorporate healthy ingredients like spinach or apples. For some recipes, they double both as a great snack and a fun activity. When we go to the supermarket, I show them ingredients, so they understand which foods have chemicals, and explain why we don’t buy them.

“They are kids, though, and I believe in balance. My husband eats Oreos and Doritos, and when we go to the pool, they all have ice cream or Popsicles with food dye. We don’t want to be too restrictive because at one point, they might rebel when they’re older. When they’re out, they’re allowed to have whatever they want with their friends, but in our house, we eat clean and we look at ingredients. We want them to enjoy food.”