Laura Keogh and Ceri Marsh had children at the same time. As journalists at Fashion magazine, they found themselves researching topics surrounding children's nutrition and lamenting the fact the information was not all in one place. This led to the establishment of The Sweet Potato Chronicles website, where they could pass on recipes and food facts to other parents.
"It was a way to take our professional skills and life stages and marry them. We thought, 'We have something that we can bring to this conversation about food,'" says Marsh, 45.
"You know, there's so much stress around food, what we're feeding our kids, not just the health form which is obviously important, but how am I going to do it? How am I going to get home from work, make dinner and then get them to eat it?
"So we just thought there was maybe something that we could bring to the table. And then coming from the world that we did we always wanted it to look amazing too, so that was always a huge priority for us, the design of the site and the quality of the photography," which is done by Maya Visnyei.
"The Sweet Potato Chronicles" went live in spring 2010, and they were approached by Appetite by Random House two years later about writing a cookbook. In the just-released "How to Feed a Family: The Sweet Potato Chronicles Cookbook," they provide more than 100 of their favourite family-friendly recipes.
There are sections on breakfast, brunch, lunchbox meals, snacks, dinners and desserts, all of which have been given a healthy twist. They also provide tips on picky eating and nutrition.
The best advice the two can offer other parents is to get kids involved in meal prep and planning at an early age, something they have practised with their own children. Keogh's daughter Scarlett is six, while Marsh has two children — Esme, 6, and Julian, whose fourth birthday is Oct. 1.
"If you take the job on as the sole cook for the family, you're going to burn out, you're going to be exhausted, you're going to feel resentful," says Marsh.
"It's important for kids to learn about food. It helps them be better eaters and also it's just a really great way to be together, so we really, really encourage people to take kids to the market, get them to choose a vegetable, something new, get them in the kitchen doing whatever they can."
Turn a blind eye to the initial mess, she adds. "It will be slow and messy, but it really pays off."
Even when your children are too young to take part, talk to them about what you're making. As they become toddlers, devise fun projects around cooking that they can help with, says Keogh, 43.
"They're far more invested in a meal that they had a hand in preparing and it really builds self-esteem and there's all sorts of life skills you can weave in," says Marsh, with Keogh adding that her daughter Scarlett has blossomed with the praise she and her husband heap on the shy youngster when she's worked hard to prepare a meal.
Picky eating can be frustrating, but avoid labelling the behaviour. "As with a lot of things with parenting, as soon as you give a kid a label you're kind of sunk. And most of these things are phases," says Marsh.
Each family has its own approach — have kids eat one bite of everything or just eat all the vegetables, for example. The more easygoing you can be about it, the better. Just keep offering.
"You have to admit you have your own likes and dislikes and allow for it," says Marsh, who acknowledges she still doesn't like brussels sprouts. "I don't care how many times my mother offers me brussels sprouts. I don't like them, Mom. Stop!
"A lot of it is about our own feelings. We get hurt when they don't want to eat what we've made."
Keogh says this is yet another great reason to have children help in the kitchen, because they will then understand the effort that goes into putting that food on the table.
Any planning and prep that can be done ahead will go a long way in making life easier.
When preparing a meal, make extra and freeze it or serve it for lunch the next day.
"I try to dedicate at least an hour, if not two, of every Sunday to something that will help me during the week," says Marsh. This can include making muffins, tomato sauce, quiche or mini meat loaves.
"I think that's a huge thing so that you're not constantly reacting at 4:30 — 'Uh-oh, what am I grabbing on the way home.'"
Keogh plans breakfast, too. Her family often wakes up to oatmeal prepared overnight in a slow cooker. They mix in nuts, chia seeds or dried fruit for an extra nutritional punch. She makes a double batch of pancakes on Sunday and toasts leftovers the first few days of the week.
Marsh — who co-authored "The Fabulous Girl's Guide to Decorum" and "The Fabulous Girl's Code Red" with Kim Izzo, which started off as a weekly manners column in The Globe and Mail — says she and her husband try to instil in their children that food is an adventure.
"If you are an adventurous eater, then you can travel, you can go to a friend's house, you can go to restaurants. It's fun and cool to be open-minded," says Marsh.
"Kids can naturally be a bit cautious and skeptical around food and it can make them a bit anxious so we try to stress the fun and the world-opening qualities of food."Suggest a correction