Quick Bite with Tracie Wagman from Help! …We’ve got Kids

Quick Bite with Tracie Wagman from Help! …We’ve got Kids

Need to find a music class for your kids? Coming up short on birthday party locations? Can’t find a salon that will cut your kid’s hair (my personal dilemma)? If you live in Toronto you probably already look to Help! … We’ve Got Kids for answers. Since launching in 1994 Tracie Wagman and Deb Beatty have been putting together essential information for parents, from services to products, in their printed and online directory. Their company has now grown to cover Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, Hamilton and Kitchener-Waterloo. If anyone can handle mealtime meltdown, it’s Tracie. We caught up with this busy Mom of two about how her own health issues motivated her to make changes in the kitchen (with the happy pay off of one son becoming quite the chef!).

SPC: What’s your earliest food memory?
TW: I used to eat way too many Granny Smith apples. I could have eaten a dozen a day and it gave me stomach aches. Apparently my mom was the same way when she was pregnant with me and was eating a green apple when she told my dad she thought she was in labor with me. He replied: “You just ate too many apples”

SPC: How did you learn to cook?
TW: I am self taught. I had chronic pneumonia for over 5 years and no doctor was able to determine why. I had done a lot of reading about the nutritional benefits of different foods and I started to change the way I ate. I have not had pneumonia in over a year and a half. I cook a lot of my own family meals because I like to know what ingredients are going into our food.

SPC: Do your kids get in the kitchen with you?
TW: Absolutely, they both love to cook and my son in particular seems to have a real love of cooking

SPC: What do your kids refuse to eat that you’d love for them to try?
TW: I swear this is true: my kids are pretty good at trying everything. They may not like it, but they are good at trying things. That being said, it would be great if they could love kale chips, but it’s a no go!

SPC: How do you deal with pickiness?
TW: I’m not that tolerant of it but that’s because my kids are not too picky. I am not a short order cook so if they don’t like what’s for dinner I will make maybe one item that they want off the menu but I won’t re-cook an entire meal. They are usually involved in choosing dinner and lunches so it’s not such a big deal. That being said, I tend to get frustrated when their friends come over and won’t eat anything. In those instances I will make separate meals because they are guests after all

SPC: What are the rules at your table?
TW: I wish I could say that they sit still with serviettes in their laps and eat with their mouths closed then ask to be excused but alas, it is not so…We do make them put serviettes in their laps. TRY to have them sit down until you they’re finished eating (very difficult for the 6 yr old boy), clear their own plates and wait until everyone is done their meal before they can have dessert. I’m still working on those other rules!
SPC: How has parenthood changed the way you cook/eat?
TW: I am VERY aware of the ingredients in food, where it comes from and what nutritional content it has. I now understand the pure joy a parent has when their child has eaten a really good, healthy meal. I never understood the obsession with mealtime from my parents or grandparents until I had my own kids. We now grow our own vegetables, we talk about different foods, my kids have chosen – on their own – to be (mostly) vegetarians. Look, we definitely eat junk food – a lot of it – but I will say I’m way more careful with what my kids eat than I expected to be

SPC: Do you have any double standards around food? ie. No dessert for them but a little chocolate for you after bedtime?
TW: Not really. If anything it’s the opposite: I’ll let them have something that I wouldn’t eat myself (like junk food)

SPC: What is your go-to busy weekday meal?
TW: Make your own tacos! It fun, easy and the kids can customize their own without feeling forced to eat what everyone else is eating

SPC: Do you take your kids out to restaurants?
TW: Yes, we do eat out a lot and my kids love it (what’s not to love?)

SPC: What do you like best about cooking?
TW: I really like knowing all the ingredients in each meal. It helps to know where the food came from and how it is made. Things just taste better!

SPC: What your readers’ concerns about food and cooking for kids?
TW: Most parents are concerned with different things at different stages. It starts with breast milk vs formula, when to feed your child solids, should you make your own baby food or buy? Then progresses into full blown issues such as: my child will only eat orange foods or my child won’t eat any vegetables. Pickiness is a major issue. I have found that if a child is exposed to the same food about 10-15 times they often tend to start liking it. However, just like adults, there are some food kids won’t eat. That is one of the biggest issues. The second one is how to find the time to cook healthy meals. There are ways to do it but it can often feel overwhelming – and I totally understand that!

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