Our kids inspire us all to be better people and do better things. But perhaps no parent has been as inspired by her son as Jeanne Cheng. Based on her son Kye’s picky palate, food sensitivities and love of all things yummy, she created a food, restaurant, book and a philosophy to help kids live healthier lives. Read on to get this inspired and inspirational mama’s tips on the best ways to live happy and healthy with your kids in Los Angeles.

Jeanne_Kyephoto courtesy: Jeanne Cheng

Can you describe both your philosophy of eating with kids and how your son inspired you?
Kids have super high nutritional needs and often times picky palates, yet it’s impossible to get a child to eat something they don’t like.  My food philosophy, KyeChi, evolved out of me trying to feed Kye (my son) responsibly and do Tai Chi with his ever changing food likes and dislikes and his food sensitivities.  KyeChi means to satisfy both the yin (nourishment) and yang (enjoyment) of why we eat, to give our body everything it needs to function optimally (and for children to grow and develop) as well as to give pleasure and enjoyment.

10405642_1556690324551999_6264051356417474247_n-e1419277525988photo courtesy: Jeanne Cheng

Which came first, the restaurant (Kye’s in Santa Monica) or the food (the KyeRito)?  Give us the scoop on how you went from molecular biologist to restaurateur!
The KyeRito came first.  I went from being a molecular biologist doing cancer and heart disease research to practicing Chinese medicine and the healing arts and teaching qi gong and meditation, to studying the Vedas and counseling and personal development, to stay at home mom.  Both my husband and I took a year off when Kye was born and nested with him.  I’ve always been into food and nutrition and love to cook.  Feeding Kye focused all of my life experiences into this area.  When he started Kindergarten, I found myself with more time and wondering what to do next.  I had created the KyeRito for him and a way of eating that I thought people would appreciate, so decided to open a restaurant.


Then you wrote a book: The Pursuit of the Magic Piece!  What made you take the healthy kids/healthy food idea and write a book about it for kids?
I’ve learned so much through Kye and am really passionate about children’s nutrition, and at the same time understand that food is one of the main pleasures in life.  I wanted to communicate the importance of both and provide a tool for kids and parents to work together on developing a healthy relationship with food.  My son is obsessed with LEGOS and I found myself using the analogy of the right size shape color LEGO piece to build his Star Wars ship just like his body needs the right vitamin, mineral, protein, fat, to build his body and the idea for the book popped into my head.

Head to one of LA's kid friendly beachesphoto: InSapphoWeTrust via flickr

You know your healthy LA!  Can you give us your top 5 LA activities that involve and engage kids in a healthy lifestyle?
1. Go to the beach and swim in the ocean.  Walking on sand is so good for our body’s alignment and sand is a great exfoliant and sea air contains tons of negative ions that relieve stress and improve mood. The energy of the ocean is really energizing and sea water is very healing and cleansing, not to mention super fun and great exercise! Will Rogers Beach is our favorite, because the water reports are good and there is parking so it’s easier to bring all of our beach gear (boogie boards, surf boards, paddle board, sand toys, umbrellas, chairs, ice chest, etc.).

2. Ride bikes to a farmers market.  I love taking Kye to the Santa Monica Farmers Market at the Promenade on Saturday mornings and checking out all the amazing food.  He loves sampling everything and he gets to choose 3 things for his lunches. Our other favorite is the Mar Vista Farmers Market on Sundays on Grand View.

3. Go for a hike.  There are so many great trails here and it’s such good exercise and really nice to hang out in nature. Rivas Canyon Trail (from Temescal Canyon to Will Rogers) is the hike we love best. We call it the Hobbit Trail because it feels magical and there is a lot of shade as well as beautiful views.   You can also pick up the trail off Rivas Canyon Rd and skip the busy Temescal Gateway Park.

4. I love to let Kye choose a food to make and look up the recipe and come up with ways to make it healthier, then walk to the market to shop for the ingredients and make it together. (See Hot Dog Salad, below.)

5. Our favorite weekend brunch ritual is to go to Rose Ave. and start with a tumeric shot at Moon Juice, get an I Am Cool at Café Gratitude, get stretched at Stretch Lab (great to bring kid’s awareness to their bodies and working with their muscles and releasing tension and blockages), then hang at Oscar’s Cerveteca for Kye’s favorite salmon tacos.

Those recipes Jeanne told us she likes to create with her son’s input? There are three in her book, including this one, which goes to show that healthy can include a kid’s favorite food…

hot dog saladphoto: Jeanne Cheng

Hot Dog Salad
2 cups organic spinach
¼ cup grated organic carrots
1 free-range hard boiled egg
1 diced grass-fed beef or bison hot dog
dressing of choice, like Maple Dijon

Toss them all together and eat!

Maple Dijon Dressing
1/3 cup grade B maple syrup
2 tbsp. chopped shallots
3 tbsp. organic whole-grain Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. organic extra-vigrin olive oil
black pepper and sea salt to taste

Blend in a blender until smooth.

Note from Jeanne and Kye: Our favorite local hot dog is Homegrown Meats grass fed beef hot dogs.  Our all time favorite hot dogs are Tanka Buffalo Hot Dogs.

JeanneChengphoto courtesy: Jeanne Cheng

Kye’s Montana
1518 Montana Ave.
Santa Monica
Online: kyesmontana.com

The book, The Pursuit of the Magic Piece, is available on the website: pursuitofthemagicpiece.com or at Kye’s Montana restaurant.

What has having your own kids inspired you to do?  We’d love to hear your stories in the comment section below.

—Meghan Rose