Caralee Fontenele, creator of Real Food Pledge and Director and Principal at Collective Family Law Group, teaches us to make a life with love and style, writes Get it’s Kathleen Loxton
It was a mix between a life-changing journey and the combination of specific moments that led Caralee to create Real Food Pledge, a wonderful approach to cooking that focusses mostly on gluten, dairy and refined sugar-free recipes. “I’ve always really enjoyed food! I grew up in New Zealand, and there was lots of seafood… and I had parents who loved entertaining. But I struggled with how I felt; I had really bad stomachaches and unsettled health issues.
I also struggled with weight loss. Then my family and I went to Thailand for a month, and I said to the kids, ‘we’re just eating Thai food, we’re not eating anything else.’ So, we made that commitment, and while we were over there we enjoyed the local cuisine, which besides a little bit of rice, is basically fruit, vegetables, and fresh, wholesome food. I just found I felt amazing, and when I got back into the routine of normal eating, including bread, I had bad stomachaches again.That’s when I thought, ‘You know the answer to how you’re meant to be eating,'” said Caralee.
Where I want to take Real Food Pledge is about empowering people to live their best life.
Noting how many people suffer from diet-related health issues, some of which can be alleviated by changes to diet, Caralee explained, “You build a tolerance for it, and there’s a lot of people living with that tolerance. I hadn’t known any other way, until I was in my early 30s. You accept that that’s just life.’’
Speaking of the positive changes in our diets, Caralee also noted how, “Especially being raised in the 80s and 90s, there was a lot of processed food; it was all very fashionable. When I started Real Food Pledge it was 2012, and then in the next couple of years the paleo movement came in. Lots has changed in schools as well – my daughter’s awareness of healthy eating is a lot more than I ever had at her age. Kids now are more attuned to healthy eating. There are all these movements, for example I cut out sugar cane. I think a lot has changed in the last ten years!’’
A love for food and cooking runs in the family, but Caralee hasn’t always found it easy to remain healthy. “We love cooking and creating together. Because I’m so busy running my law practice – if I had all the time in the world I’d just move to Bali and cook, it’d be amazing – I’m just like other busy mums running a household; it can be really hard staying healthy and feeding the family with healthy food. Because, you get home from work, look at what you have in the fridge and go, ‘Never mind, we’ll just order takeaway,’’’ divulged Caralee.
Overcoming this everyday struggle meant working as a family and setting goals. Caralee said, “This year, because we were slipping into an unhealthy routine last year with being so busy, we have a set menu every night of the week. And I hate the idea of that, being super ‘routined’ around food, but it’s really helped our family stay healthy when we’re busy.
For example, Tuesday night is taco night! We do have ingredients that can be quite flexible though, like mince, beans or chicken. When we got into it, my daughter helped me design the menu. They’re excited about what’s happening.’’
Whilst law and creating mouth-watering recipes for cookbooks are vastly different careers, there’s an interesting connection between the two. “I think what’s surprising, is that our relationship with food and our romantic relationships are both really complicated. It’s a love-hate relationship for a lot of people; it can be a conversation we can have repeatedly about food and how you feel about food. It can be a really complicated subject and relationship, and marriage is similar,’’ said Caralee.
So, what is Caralee going to cook-up next? Caralee stated it’s all about the bigger picture, saying,‘’I’m focusing on growing the law firm on the Gold Coast, and we also have an office in Brisbane. With Real Food Pledge, I’ve done two cookbooks previously and I think I really enjoy the creative outlet that the Real Food Pledge provides. I love that aspect of it! Both are about helping people and encouraging them to move on to their best life – it’s something that is very important to me. They’re both similar in that aspect. Where I want to take Real Food Pledge is about empowering people to live their best life.’’
Caralee left us with a divine morsel of wisdom, “You don’t always realise the impact you can have. It’s really rewarding when people tell you, ‘Thank goodness for your help,’ or ‘Your book changed my life’; you know when they say that to you, that you’ve really helped.’’