This week, we interviewed the amazing Renée Elliott, Founder of Planet Organic. Renée lives in Tuscany with her husband and three children under 10 years old. 

You have 3 children between the ages of 4 and 10 and have a successful career – how do you balance family and work?

It’s not easy for women.  With the addition of each child, I did less at work because the kids are my priority.  It’s part of my ten-year plan that I spend as much time with them as I can while they’re little.  So I work part-time, when they are at school.  When they grow up, leave home and head to university, I will have the freedom to pursue all sorts of ideas, but for now, I’m theirs.

What inspired you to open the supermarket chain Planet Organic?

I wanted to create work that I would love for a lifetime – and I knew I had the passion to persuade and ability to inspire change.  My mission is to create health in the community, and an organic and healthy supermarket seemed the perfect vehicle.

Planet Organic has really helped make healthy living so much easier. What is your favourite healthy food that we should all have more of?

Ah, the list is long, but if I had to choose one, I would say seaweeds.  They contain many micronutrients that just aren’t in our depleted soils anymore, plus an excellent range of minerals.  Great for children, they are high in protein and calcium.  Seaweeds are also one of the few foods that reduce radiation in the body.

Try toasted nori sprinkled on pasta or rice dishes – or buy sushi nori sheets, cut it up and serve as a snack.  My kids love it in their lunchboxes.

You’re American, founded Planet Organic in London and now live in beautiful Tuscany with your family (lucky you!). What are the best things about these 3places?

What I love about America is that the people, in general, are childlike.  There is an innocence and friendliness that is genuine and endearing.  There is also no class system like England, so many Americans still believe that they can better themselves and that they, too, could one day be President.

London is exciting and busy, and as a major city, you can find everything you want.  But what I love about England are my friends.  Because I have lived there since I was 21, I have a gorgeous group.

The best thing about Tuscany is the values.  You can live a life without commercialism and competition.  Life is slow and beautiful, and it’s all about family and food.  We’re on the same page.

How do you deal with questions about Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy etc.?

When pressed on specifics about these three, I say that there’s a bit of magic about the holidays and that I don’t understand all of it.  My kids all still believe.  When they find out the truth, I plan to soften the blow by explaining that these stories are part of the magic of childhood.  They are older and understand now, but we keep the secret for the little ones.

Crisps, cookies, brownies and fizzy drinks – so bad for you but so tempting. Do you have any tips to keep children eating healthy things?

The best tactic I have is simply not having junk in the house because if it’s not there, you just can’t have it.  I never buy fizzy drinks and crisps are an occasional after-the-beach treat.  For cookies, brownies and sweet goods, I bake my own delicious versions with wholemeal spelt flour and reduced sugar, so that these ‘treats’ are actually nutritious.  Friday – not every day – is treat day for something special like organic chocolate.

If you’d have to eat the same dish for the rest of your life what would it be?

Seggiano roasted artichoke hearts.

Tell us a secret about London?

Nothing is truly a secret, but one my favourite less known spots – if you have little kids – is  the Serpentine Lido in Hyde Park – not the swimming area in the Serpentine, but the gated area up behind the cafe.  You can bring a picnic, there is water for the kids to paddle in, you can hire loungers, buy a cappuccino, it is not crowded and there is no dog mess.

What’s a baby product you can’t live without?

Organic wipes for hands, faces and bottoms.

How would you sum yourself up in one sentence?

Well, as I think it should say on my tombstone, ‘I’m not done yet.’

 

Questions by Victoria Krumrei