By Nicole MacKay
Among the many duties of being a parent, feeding our children – day in and day out – can sometimes be the most challenging. There’s often angst about mealtime or agony over snack time. A home with a child or adolescent living inside is often the source of incessant stress over food intake.
But what if our offspring decided to take that worry away? What if they loved food and were curious about spices, flavours, textures and preparations? What if one day, they asked for a second serving of broccoli? Instilling a sense of curiosity about food is not as easy as following steps one, two and three. If it were simple, we wouldn’t see upscale dining options offering menus specifically for children. Or plastic toys wouldn’t be thrown into a colourful takeaway box alongside a nugget that vaguely resembles chicken.
Raising a child to love good food is not a linear path. And each parent’s semblance of success looks different. Promoting a foodie mentality requires strategizing, prioritizing and an abundance of patience.
Food Inside the Home
Exposure, Over and Over
There’s a time and place to hide less appealing foods into muffins or pasta sauce. Most parents have been there and done that. Yet, experts agree that offering food, in its natural form, will encourage a more innate acceptance over time. Dieticians and food psychologists say it could take up to 15 or even 20 occurrences of exposure. But one day it’ll pay off and your child will pick up the cauliflower to give it a try.
From the Ground Up
Michael Allemeier, Calgary culinary educator and certified master chef, encourages families to get into the garden as much as possible. “When kids grow up eating right out of the garden, they have an understanding of how it grows, when it tastes good and when to eat it.” Allemeier has harvested and cooked at home with his two boys since they were young. “We make food fun and include the kids in preparing it. We started by having them help peel and wash vegetables. Learning to cook and eat well is no different than teaching them how to swim or ride a bike. Eating happens many times a day, it’s the most important gift I can give my kids!”
Food in the Community
Explore Local Farms
We’re fortunate to live in a city where farming and agriculture surrounds us. Alberta Farm Days, which traditionally happens over a weekend in the summer, promotes more than 100 Alberta farms and ranches who open their gates to visitors. On-farm demonstrations and u-pick fields help spark a curiosity to grow and eat local. Visit albertafarmdays.ca to find out which farms are open to visitors year-round.
Calgary’s many year-round farmers’ markets offer families the chance to seek out ingredients and foodie experiences they might not find in a grocery store. Avenida Food Hall & Fresh Market is one of the city’s largest markets with 40 vendors spread across more than 20 thousand square feet. Or you could spend a full day roaming the Calgary Farmers’ Market with live music and kid-friendly entertainment. For additional options, visit Crossroads Market, Granary Road or Farmers & Makers Market at CSPACE.
Cooking /Baking Classes
Granted, we’re living in a left-of-centre COVID reality these days. Both PC Cooking School and Sunterra Market have cancelled their cooking classes until further notice. But there are still some opportunities to get children cooking outside of the home. Cuisine & Chateau offers socially-distanced, hands-on cooking classes for kids ages 8 to 13. At the time of writing this article, The Cookbook Co. Cooks plan to reintroduce its regular in-class offerings in the fall.