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Cooking with kids – stress, mess, or success?

FOODWISE by Terry Daley

Doing almost any activity with kids requires both time and patience. And when it comes to kids in the kitchen, let’s be honest – it can be much easier, quicker and cleaner to let the children play while mom or dad prepares the family meal.

On the other hand, involving kids in meal preparation can actually teach them many skills beyond just combining ingredients. Including kids in kitchen tasks and meal prep is a fun way to discover healthy eating habits and teach life-long skills such as following direction, cleanliness, measuring, and working together. It is also an interactive way to develop fine motor skills and hand-eye co-ordination.

Most kids love helping in the kitchen because they can use all five senses: touch, taste, sight, hearing, and smell. Take advantage of this opportunity to teach to them about healthy foods. As your kids help you prepare the family meal, point out each food group and explain the importance of eating a mix of foods from each of the different groups. Most importantly, be patient and let them make mistakes. Remember that the goal is a long-term one – to inspire a lifetime of healthy eating.

March is Nutrition Month and dietitians across the country are encouraging Canadians to unlock the power of discovering healthy eating habits in children by teaching them to shop and cook. Here are some of the ways kids can be hands-on in the kitchen:

2-year-olds: Wipe tabletops, wash vegetables and fruits, break broccoli and cauliflower into pieces, tear lettuce or greens, pour ingredients into a bowl.

3-year-olds: Mix and pour ingredients, juice lemons and limes, apply soft spreads such as jams and sauces, put things into the trash.

4-year-olds: Peel oranges or boiled eggs, mash cooked vegetables or bananas, use kid-safe scissors to cut fresh herbs, set the table, put soap in the dishwasher and press “start.”

5- to 6-year-olds: Measure ingredients, mix ingredients using a spoon or an egg beater, form patties, help put groceries away, load and unload the dishwasher.

7- to 8-year-olds: Toss salad ingredients, make a simple breakfast.

9- to 12-year-olds: Make their own lunches, help to plan the family meals for the week, help to prepare grocery lists.

Teens: Put teens in charge of one meal per week. Allow them the freedom to try more complicated recipes.

Remember, you know your child best! Every child is different and may be ahead of, or behind these suggestions. They may need lots of direction and supervision, but they are likely to be very enthusiastic about helping out!

This sweet potato fritters and sauce recipe is a fun one to try with kids of different ages. Spiral-cut vegetables are a great way to mix up your veggie routine and keep kids excited about cooking healthy foods! Try making your own spiral vegetables using the PC Spiral Vegetable Slicer. Or if you are pressed for time, you can now buy pre-cut veggie “noodles” – look for them in several varieties from President’s Choice, including sweet potato (used in this recipe), beet and zucchini.

Sweet Potato Fritters with Herbed Yogurt Sauce


1 cup (250 mL) PC Organics Chickpea Flour

2 tbsp (25 mL) rice flour

1 tsp (5 mL) salt

1/2 tsp (2 mL) each fennel seeds, ground cumin and ground turmeric

1/4 tsp (1 mL) cayenne pepper

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 pkg (340 g) PC Sweet Potato Veggie Noodles

3 tbsp (45 mL) chopped fresh cilantro

1 tbsp (15 mL) fresh lemon juice

Vegetable oil, for frying

1 pkg (227 g) PC Traditional Tzatziki Yogurt Dip

1 tbsp (15 mL) each chopped fresh cilantro and fresh mint

Pinch (0.5 mL) each cayenne pepper and ground cumin


1. Prepare Fritters: Whisk together chickpea flour, rice flour, salt, fennel seeds, cumin, turmeric and cayenne pepper in large bowl. Add onion, veggie noodles, cilantro and lemon juice; toss with fingers just until coated and moistened. Gradually add up to 1/4 cup water, 1 tbsp at a time and tossing well after each addition, just until mixture sticks together (but is not runny). Let stand 5 minutes.

2. Pour enough oil into wide large saucepan to come 1 inch (2.5 cm) up side. Heat over medium heat until deep-fryer thermometer reads 350°F (180°C).

3. Toss veggie noodle mixture once more to coat. Working in small batches and returning oil to 350°F (180°C) between each batch, scoop mixture by heaping lightly packed 1 tbsp and gently lower into hot oil using tongs or slotted spoon; cook, turning once, until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer with slotted spoon to paper towel-lined baking sheet.

4. Meanwhile, prepare Herbed Yogurt Sauce: Stir together tzatziki, cilantro, mint, cayenne pepper and cumin in small bowl. Serve with fritters.

Chef’s Tip: Resist the temptation to press or pack the battered veggie noodle mixture into balls before lowering into the oil – loose bundles yield the best fritters.

Makes 12 Servings

Per serving: 120 calories, fat 11 g (1 g of which is saturated), sodium 90 mg, carbohydrate 5 g, fibre 1 g, sugars 1 g, protein 1 g

Recipe Source: PC Test Kitchen

Have a nutrition question? Want to book an appointment or shop with the dietitian? Book online at www.atlanticsuperstore/dietitians or contact me by phone at (902) 921-0700 or by email at

Terry Daley is a Registered Dietitian with Atlantic Superstore in New Glasgow.

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