Raising healthy eaters

Looking for something to do this March break? How about getting your kids into the kitchen? We talked to Anna Tvinnereim, chef, cooking instructor, and owner of the much-loved, east-end institution Beaches Bake Shop and Cafe for some tips for making meals a family affair and encouraging kids to be more adventurous eaters.

Photo of Anna Tvinnereim

Photo of Anna Tvinnereim, chef, cooking insutrctor and owner of Beaches Bake Shop and Cafe

Anna says: “In Sweden, where I’m from, there’s a saying called lagom which means balance. What it’s about is enjoying yourself while staying healthy and happy. Lagom is how I’ve raised my family, and guides how we eat every day. We also have fika, which is a coffee break shared with friends and family that always includes something sweet. Balance is important!

It all starts in the grocery store. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store - that’s where the good stuff is.Teach your kids to seek out the most colourful fruit and veggies - focus on a different colour every week and encourage your kids to pick something unfamiliar to them for the whole family to try.  

Make snacks count. Snacks are like mini meals - so make sure they count. Include a fruit or veggie and protein: think carrots with hummus, crackers and fruit with cheese, or apple slices with nut or seed butter. When kids are hungry, they’re more likely to eat more fruits and veggies. Keep healthy snacks like cherry tomatoes, roasted almonds, and a big bowl of fruit available whenever your kids are hungry, or try filling a muffin tray with a variety of different snacks and keep it available for your kids to graze at.

Have kids help out. Kids will eat almost anything they’ve helped make. How about giving them a job to do while you make dinner? Kids from 4 or 5 can chop veggies using safe kid-friendly knives or a crinkle cutter. Put some olive oil, vinegar, and seasonings in a small jar and have them shake it for a salad dressing. And if you have a pot on a balcony or a few planters you have space for a small herb and vegetable garden. Kids love growing their own herbs and veggies and will happily eat what they grow. Try a cherry tomato plant, some snap peas, or a hanging container of strawberries.

Make dinner special. Put out napkins, light a candle, put some flowers on the table, or sing a song. Create your own nightly ritual to build your family’s connection and make your dinner together an important part of everyone’s day.

Appeal to your kids’ sense of play. Kids love creating and building - so harness that enthusiasm in the kitchen. Get some pizza dough or flatbreads from your local grocery store to begin a fun weekly pizza night ritual. Kids can chop veggies, paint their crust with sauce and build a pizza with their favourite ingredients. Shepherd’s pie is also fun - little ones can mash potatoes and layer ingredients. Or have them thread colourful fruits in a rainbow pattern on wooden skewers.

It doesn’t have to be complicated! Short on time? (Aren’t we all?) Grab a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and have the kids chop veggies for a salad while you roast some potatoes. Assemble a “snacky-style” dinner with some meats, cheese, bread, veggies, and store-bought dips. Or boil some pasta and toss with butter, parmesan cheese, and peas. Don’t stress about making your dinner Instagram-worthy, or using all organic ingredients.

There’s a time and a place for everything. Anything from cupcakes to fast-food meals can fit into your family’s diet - just not every day. Think Swedish fika. There’s no need to give up family pizza Friday or baking cookies together on the weekend if most of your meals during the week are balanced.