'NCIS' Star Vanessa Lachey Shares Her Favorite Food Hack That Changes Mealtime

The NCIS: Hawai‘i star shares family rituals she has with husband Nick Lachey and their three kids, as well as food tricks parents need to know.

vanessa lachey celebrity parent
Photo: Michael Kovac / Getty Images

Television star Vanessa Lachey recently relocated to Oahu to play the first female lead of an NCIS franchise, NCIS: Hawai'i. The fam came along: husband Nick, of the band 98 Degrees, plus their kids, Camden, 9, Brooklyn, 6, and Phoenix, 4. Her next move: sharing personal recipes and rituals in Life From Scratch: Family Traditions That Start With You, out November 30.

Recent parenting win

The kids being up for moving to Hawaii and starting at a new school.

Recent parenting miss

Realizing school in Hawaii starts a month sooner than we're used to. Summer was cut short.

Best trait my kids got from me

Laughing out loud uncontrollably.

Unfortunate trait my kids got from me

Also laughing out loud uncontrollably.

Meal I make that my family loves

Tacos with homemade guacamole. Taco Tuesday dinner was the first meal we shared as a family of five! It kick-started our Cinco de Mayo tradition, and it's something that has become special for our family.

Meal I made that my family rejected

The kids won't eat my homemade lasagna, but Nick will eat it all.

Best go-to snack for kids

Anything that's dry and easy to clean up if spilled.

Snack they're still not allowed to have

No liquid snacks on the go, other than water.

Food hack that changes mealtime

I like to surprise the kids by sneaking treats into their lunches. One of my favorite things to do is carve fun shapes into their food. The red wax around Babybel cheese is a perfect canvas for a surprise heart. If you use the tip of a sharp knife, you can draw shapes on a banana peel that will turn brown so the kids can see them at lunchtime. Or I cut their sandwiches or a few strawberries into heart shapes.

Lachey says.

"I've picked up so many tricks and tips for making all the holidays more stress-free,"

—Lachey says.

Food hack I would not repeat

Trying to "hide" something by blending it into a smoothie. Kids know.

Best part of Thanksgiving

Everything! It's one of our favorite holidays: food, family, football, and fun. And it's casual. Not fancy and no gifts.

Most stressful part of Thanksgiving

The turkey! I've messed it up many times. Now we cook two turkeys. I roast one in the oven and Nick deep-fries a smaller one. That gives me a safety net if one of them doesn't turn out well.

vanessa lachey book family traditions
Courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers

Best time of day

Bedtime snuggles.

Worst time of day

Getting them to go to their room for bedtime snuggles.

Activity I love to do with my kids

Getting them involved in the kitchen with simple but helpful tasks like pouring, rinsing, and stirring. One of our favorite traditions is a Christmas-morning casserole that's come to symbolize family time spent together in the kitchen and at the table eating and laughing. It's an easy and delicious recipe that everyone can help with.

Activity I hate to do with my kids

The trampoline, ha ha! The moms out there get it.

Glorious thing about having three kids

There's always something happening! We are always learning, exploring, snuggling, laughing, crying, talking, reading, playing, drawing, building, growing. I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Hardest thing about having three kids

There's often one left out of a lot of things, but I see it as a learning opportunity for us as a family and individually. Sometimes you have to be self-sufficient and entertain yourself.

At least I have this down

I know I love my kids unconditionally and will always be there for them.

I am still figuring this out

How to show my kids that I love them equally as well as unconditionally. I think it comes with time. I know my kids know this. But I still question if they really know.

This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's November 2021 issue as "Highs and Lows: Vanessa Lachey."

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