In the early aughts, Jennifer Garner’s portrayal of super-spy Sydney Bristow not only earned her a Golden Globe Award (and four Emmy nominations), but helped set a new standard for strong, smart, totally butt-kicking leading ladies on TV. Now, she’s teamed up with two other badass babes, Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner (the creators of Girls), to return to prime time for the first time in over 12 years as the star of HBO’s Camping.
But to make room for her new role, Garner’s needed to shift things around in an existing one: mom of three kids. How does she make time for family meal prep and bedtime stories while also keeping up with a demanding shooting schedule and helping run Once Upon a Farm, the healthy baby food company she co-founded? I asked her.
Keep reading for Jennifer’s top healthy parenting tips.
You’re heading back to TV! What kind of a schedule does this mean for you and your family—are you looking at a total overhaul of your daily routine?
The schedule for TV is pretty intense—I’m gone 14 hours most days and have lines to learn when I get home at night. This job is great, though, because it’s an ensemble cast and not all on my shoulders—which means I do get a random morning or day off almost every week. And because we start most days super early in the morning, even with the longer days, I make it home to read to at least one or two kids after work.
My kids are used to the strange rhythm of production —I’m either very much home and available, or I’m working a bunch and leaving notes everywhere for them to find during the day. I have great help at my house and it all works out.
When life gets *busy,* are there certain moments or rituals you make sure you do with your kids every day?
There are lots of little traditions the kids and I have together. Right now our blueberry bushes are going nuts, so we sneak down and pick blueberries together on the weekends. But my most valuable time with the kids is bedtime—I have different books going with each of my kids and they each get their own time [with me], even if it has to be condensed!
I love that you like to garden and farm with your kids. How did this come about?
My mom grew up on a little farm in Oklahoma with cows, chickens, fresh veggies—you name it. Everything they ate, other than sugar and flour, they grew and raised. When I was a little girl, my mother always told me and my siblings fantastic, vivid tales of growing up on the farm during the summertime, when they would eat like kings, with fresh produce by the bunches and routine delicacies like homemade ice cream.
It’s that same enchanted love for homemade and fresh that defines how my family lives at home today. We have bee hives in our yard, my kids have their bee suits and like to get involved with it all—it’s so fun, it’s like a living science experiment. In our garden, we grow tons of fruits and vegetables and we’re so lucky to live where we live, because we can grow almost anything—we can’t stop planting new things!
Why is healthy eating so important for you and your family?
I was lucky to grow up eating garden-grown, fresh, homemade nutritious food with a mom who prepared our meals on a daily basis. I was well educated on how important of a role clean eating plays in our daily lives. It’s key for us to know exactly what we are putting into our bodies in order to feel good and alive with energy. This was my mom’s lifestyle, which she instilled in me and my sisters, and it’s what I want for my kids—and really, all kids, at the end of the day. That’s why I’m so passionate about Once Upon a Farm.
How did you get involved with Once Upon a Farm?
As a mom with my own three school-aged kids, it’s become something of a tradition to feed my family using that same farm-to-family approach. But the reality remains, I have three lunch boxes to pack each day. So I understand, firsthand, how much of a challenge making every meal “fresh” can be, especially when busy schedules demand parents to meal prep in advance.
When I cofounded Once Upon a Farm, it was if all the stars aligned. My decade of work focused on early literacy and healthy food access as a Save the Children ambassador and my passion for nourishing my family with those same wholesome foods suddenly exploded into this incredible opportunity for me to do good by families everywhere by making organic, farm-fresh foods delicious and convenient.
Is there one healthy food your kids hate?
There are plenty of healthy foods my kids don’t like! I have typical picky eaters, for sure. I would say we’re in the camp of not mixing flavors and textures more than we are picky about specific foods. I was the pickiest kid ever when I was little, so I try to stay calm when they turn down something I know they would love—but I’m not always successful.
How do you fit in workouts between work and family life?
I work out early—really early, and I always work out on both Saturday and Sunday, to give me more guilt-free days when things get too hairy during the week. For the past four years I’ve been loving working out with Simone de la Rue, who started Body by Simone. I love the classes—full of energy and movement and fun women, and would recommend them—or Simone’s awesome app! —to anyone.
What’s your favorite wellness habit with the kids?
I love to hike with my kids on Sunday afternoons. And I have been known to bribe them to meditate.
How do you unwind after a stressful day?
If we can get outside, even for a minute, the whole evening moves more easily.