Cooking School

Trish Magwood's strategies for raising food-savvy kids

Photo by Nastasha Alli Author: Canadian Living Credits: Photo by Nastasha Alli

Cooking School

Trish Magwood's strategies for raising food-savvy kids

It's no surprise that the kitchen of Trish Magwood - cooking show host, chef, business owner & supermom - is the centre of her home. Instantly inviting and comforting, sunshine beamed through two big windows onto her chocolate- and Rice Krispie-filled countertop as we chatted about how to get kids more involved in the kitchen. Nearby, kids' drawings peeked out from a tacked portion of the wall.

Memories made and created in the kitchen are what propels this mom of three to continue creating wonderful meals at home, and also what inspired her latest book, In My Mother's Kitchen (HarperCollins, 2011).

So how does this culinary expert keep her young kids actively involved (and interested!) in the kitchen? Below Magwood shares some of her family's most useful tips:

1. Encourage your kids to try a "no thank you helping"
"The 'no thank you helping' means you just have to take a bite, (that) you just need to try it," Magwood explains. Her own mom used this trick when she was younger, she remembers, to get Magwood and her siblings to taste food they would otherwise have refused to eat.

She admits her eldest son, Finn, is a picky eater; he's going to camp for the first time this summer, and she hopes the 'no thank you helping' approach she's used with him many times before will help him eat better at camp.

For her two younger kids at home, seeing big brother try broccoli or snow peas also encourages them to try unfamiliar, but healthy and nutritious, foods.

2. Be open - you never know what they'll ask for
The "no thank you helping" could also lead to new food discoveries for hard-to-please kids, Magwood explains.

"One of my big things is to be positive," she shares. When she asks what her kids want from the grocery, she's sometimes surprised by their reply.

Page 1 of 3 - Are your kids wary of trying new food? Read more of Trish's tips on page 2.

"Finn is a big fan of spanakopita (a Greek spinach and cheese pastry), so he often asks for that," she says. Unusual for a seven-year-old, but it's something he's learned to love through trying new foods.

3. Involve your kids in the meal-planning process
Giving the little ones a say in planning your dinner menus is a great way to spend time with them in the kitchen, too. In one of her biggest stand-offs with Finn, she says he complained that they have "the same thing every night." So Magwood came up with a compromise.

"I slammed down a pen and a piece of paper and said 'Ok, you write down our menu,'" she says. "Tell me what it is (you want), put it up on the wall, and that's what I'll make. But I need at least 10 things, because we're not having macaroni and cheese every night."

And sure enough, he came up with a list. It works well enough for their family, Magwood adds with a laugh. "You still have to cater it to each child and their age," she says. "(But) if I've got no tears at the table, then I'm successful."

Page 2 of 3 - Discover other helpful tips for cooking with kids on page 3.

4. Remember to play while cooking together
"If the kids have had a hand in it," Magwood says, "they'll eat it." Playing a game of 'name that vegetable' on your next shopping trip, or letting them crack the eggs while baking a cake gets kids instantly involved.

Magwood describes how her daughters, Charlotte and Olivia, wear a little apron and a pink chef's hat when they cook with mom in the kitchen.

"Charlotte may just be pulling out the (ingredients), then she's off on her own, dancing and doing twirls in her little chef's hat, but they're part of the process in some way," she explains. "Olivia's my easy one; she truly likes to cook. She'll watch the risotto and say 'you gotta add more liquid.' She's on it, she knows what needs to happen."

5. Keep a tidy, accessible snack section

Magwood keeps snack foods tidy in her kitchen cupboards by storing cereals and crackers in tall, clear plastic canisters. Shelving them in low drawers encourages her kids to easily reach for healthy, homemade snacks when they need a boost. Her daughter, Olivia, goes for homemade trail mix (made with granola, flax seeds, dried fruits and nuts) when she sits to read a book, and Finn grabs a handful before heading out the door for karate practice.

In her own kitchen
After compiling dozens of recipes for In My Mother's Kitchen handed down through generations of her family, Magwood says this process made her realize the importance of celebrating meals prepared with lots of heart. But with busy schedules families now keep, she knows finding quality time to spend with kids can be quite the challenge.

"Time goes fast," she says. "But it's a sensory thing too. We might just be sitting at the table for two minutes, but that's two minutes more than other people are doing."

To a kid helping in the kitchen, that's enough time to scramble an egg, grate a carrot, or dip a finger into cookie batter, uncovering a lifelong love for the flavours in the bowl because they were shared with Mom.

Page 3 of 3 - How do you get your little ones involved in the kitchen? Find out Trish Magwood's kid-tested strategies on page 1.

Share X
Cooking School

Trish Magwood's strategies for raising food-savvy kids