Algoma Public Health

Cook up some fun!

  • Facebook
  • Email

Kids that plan, shop, cook and eat with their families enjoy benefits that go beyond nutrition.


Plan Together: A Little Planning Goes a Long Way

After school activities or homework can make it difficult to cook and eat as a family, but a little planning can go a long way. Start by scheduling family meals two or three days a week. Then, as the weeks go by, try to eat together more often.

Plan Time to Cook and Eat Together

Use a calendar to keep track of the whole family’s schedule. On the days that everyone is home, make it a priority to prepare and eat a meal or snack together. Don’t forget the weekends! Saturdays and Sundays can be prefect for planning and preparing brunch together.

Eating together doesn’t always mean eating dinner together. If you are busy at dinner time, try eating another meal as a family. Preparing and eating breakfast, lunch or a snack together is just as fun and worthwhile.

Plan Your Menu

Making a menu plan as a family makes it fun and easy to prepare meals throughout the week. You’ll find the more you menu plan the easier it becomes.

  • Keep it simple. Making simple meal plans will make it easier to get the whole family involved
  • Ask your children to pick one of their favourite dishes to prepare each week
  • Plan your menu around foods that are on sale in your local flyers
  • Make sure your menus have lots of tasty, good-for-you and budget-friendly foods
  • Post your menu plan where everyone can see it. This will help you stick to your plan, and may encourage your family to get the meal or snack started

Planning ahead can make shopping as a family an enjoyable and healthy experience. A grocery list will help you keep to your menu plan and stay on budget. Use your meal plan to create your grocery list, and have your family add items you run out of throughout the week.

Try to plan shopping trip for times when you and your kids are not hungry or over tired, and the store is not too busy.

Shop Together: Make Grocery Shopping a Family Affair

The grocery store, farms and farmers’ markets are great places to talk to your kids about healthy food choices, where food comes from, how it is grown and how much it costs. Check out Buy Algoma, Buy Fresh for a directory of where you can buy local food.

Choose Healthy Foods

When shopping, buy mostly items in the outer aisles of the grocery store. This is where you’ll find vegetables and fruit, poultry, fish, eggs, milk products and fresh, lean meat. Choose products with healthy ingredients. Look at the ingredients list and check the Nutrition Facts tables to compare serving sizes and the nutrients in packaged foods. Encourage your kids to pick a vegetable or fruit that they have never tried. Kids are more likely to try something new if they choose it.

Don't Over-Spend

Keep your grocery budget under control with these wallet-friendly tips:

  • Be aware of marketing tricks grocery stores use to encourage customers to buy more
  • Eat before you shop. If you are hungry, you may be more likely to buy things you don’t need
  • Shop the sales. Scan store flyers and online coupon sites for specials, but keep in mind that food is not a bargain if you don’t eat it
  • When there is a sale, stock up on staples such as bulk whole grains (e.g., oatmeal, brown rice), dried legumes (e.g., beans, peas, lentils), and canned vegetables and fruit
  • Buy fresh meat, fish and poultry when it is on sale and freeze it
  • Compare prices. Store brands are often lower in price

Cook Together: Connect in the Kitchen

Teaching your children to be comfortable in the kitchen will give them the skills they need to eat healthy for life. You can teach your kids about:

  • Where food comes from
  • Planning meals
  • Shopping for food
  • Following and adapting a recipe
  • Cooking healthy foods
  • Preparing foods safely at home

Enjoy cooking together by involving kids in making simple meals or snacks:

  • Cook up Some Fun! The main thing is for your children to want to do it again and again
  • Children who help cook are often excited to eat what they’ve made. This can help reduce mealtime battles and picky eating
  • Find quick and easy recipes to make with your kids
  • Keep cooking simple. Cook meals from basic ingredients - it does not have to be complicated

Start Early

Get children involved at every age. Even children as young as 2 years can be involved in preparing meals. Try some age appropriate activities with your children tonight.

Eat Together: Take Time to eat Together

Help your family eat healthier meals and snacks. When you eat meals and snacks together, children usually have more vegetables and fruit and less soft drinks and junk food. The benefits go beyond nutrition. When children eat with their family, they tend to do better in school and have more self-confidence and stronger language skills.

Got a picky eater? Check out EatRight Ontario’s tips for getting children to try new foods.

Be a Role-Model

Your kids look up to you, and will follow your example! Set a good example by eating healthy foods at meal and snack time, and not dieting or skipping meals. Setting an example is also a great, no-pressure way to help your child try new foods. It is more effective and less stressful than force-feeding or bribing. Eating together is the perfect opportunity to pass on good table manners. Before you get to the table, try making a personalized place mat, and have your kids set and clear the table.

Enjoy Connecting as a Family

Connecting as a family at the table can help you build closer relationships. Talking about the day or having other fun, interesting conversations will help your kids learn social skills and get along with others. Try our 101 questions to ask your kids at mealtimes to get the conversation started. Keep distractions to a minimum to enjoy uninterrupted time together. Turn off the TV and don’t bring cell phones or laptops to the table.

Health Professionals and Teachers

Health Professionals and Teachers can help families find ways to enjoy planning, shopping, cooking and eating together. Visit these sites for information and education about the benefits of eating as a family:

Health Canada - Improving Cooking and Food Preparation Skills: A Synthesis of the Evidence to Inform Program and Policy Development
Ellyn Satter – Mastering family meals


For ideas to help children discover the enjoyment and benefits of getting involved in planning, shopping, cooking and sharing meals and snacks together with their families, check out the Bright Bites website.


Date of creation:   February 29, 2016
Last modified:   March 7, 2016