Chop Chop Chatter and Beanie Burgers

As soon as my 11-year-old daughter Celia got her hands on a copy of Chop Chop magazine, the new healthy cooking magazine for kids, she found a recipe she was eager to try.   She wrote the three ingredients for the Berry Spritzer on my grocery list and pleaded with me to hurry up and go to the store so she could make this sparkly (and healthy) concoction.

Chop Chop magazine landed on the scene this year with a giant splash.  It gives children inspiration and direction in the kitchen and helps foster their interest in making healthy food at home.  The magazine is filled with simple-to-follow recipes (like Peachy Keen Smoothies and Ole! Guacamole), dynamic graphics and photos, games, puzzles, tips, quizzes, projects and lots of features to bolster kids’ food knowledge and kitchen confidence.

Founder Sally Sampson, a mother of two teenagers and author of 20 cookbooks, started the nonprofit quarterly magazine this year in an effort to combat obesity.  Although the magazine’s target audience is 5 – 12 year olds, my 13 year old son has also been flipping through it for ideas.

I recently spoke to Ms. Sampson about her goals for Chop Chop and her thoughts on the importance of engaging kids in cooking “real” food.

You’ve written 20 cookbooks! What inspired you to shift gears and start a cooking magazine for kids?

I have a child with a rare chronic illness, so I became very involved with medical specialists and pediatricians, and I became very interested in doing something in health care to help, but I thought I didn’t really have the skills.  But one day I realized that I could use my skills as a cookbook author and my connections to doctors to help address obesity. I asked some doctors I knew if they could use a tool to get their patients cooking healthy food, and every single doctor I spoke to about the idea said “Bring it on”.

The magazine was originally designed to be a pamphlet for doctors, but over time it turned into something bigger.  Even now it’s growing in size with each issue. Running Chop Chop has been really hard work, but it’s the most fun I’ve had in my career.

What tips do you have for parents who want to foster a love of cooking and eating healthy food in their children? And, how can parents balance independence vs. safety?

Figure out what is going to appeal to your kids and meet them where they are. If you have a child who loves apples, go apple picking, come home and say, “What can we do with these apples”. Don’t bother trying to convince them to make something just because you like it—make what they like.

Try not to start with desserts because then you can get stuck there. Most cookbooks for kids are filled with desserts and unhealthy food and that’s not what you want to be encouraging your kids to make and eat. Engage your kids in real food.

What are your thoughts on getting kids to clean up after themselves when they cook? That’s a tussle we sometimes experience at my house.

I would really try to make it just part of what you do. Even having the kids stand on a stool and wash their hands before they start gives a clear message that cleaning is part of this whole endeavor. Get mild cleaning products, get them their own rubber gloves and sponge that are just for them and let them help pick out a great smelling mild soap.

What does the future hold for Chop Chop? Do you think you’ll come close to achieving your goal of getting it in the hands of every child in the U.S.?

I think we will get there. After our third issue, we have already doubled in size from 150,000 issues to 300,000. We’re now partnering with the American Academy of Pediatrics to increase our distribution and we have some amazing sponsors like New Balance, Stoneyfield and Oxo . What we need now are more sponsors so we can get more copies of Chop Chop in the hands of low income kids. We also want the people who can pay for the magazine to help us pay for those who can’t afford it. We also need more publicity. And speaking of the future, I am so excited to announce that Michelle Obama will be featured in the next issue!

Although Sampson’s goals for the magazine’s distribution and impact are ambitious, for all she’s accomplished in the magazine’s first year I’m betting on (and rooting for!) her success.

Subscriptions to Chop Chop cost $14.95 per year (4 issues) and can be purchased at www.chopchopmag.com.

Mollie Katzen, who is one of my favorite cookbook authors, has written three wonderful cookbooks for kids and also shares recipes on her website.

DooF (F-o-o-D backwards) makes good food fun by engaging kids and families in the crazy, wonderful story of where food comes from.  It explores food from a wide range of perspectives: backwards, forwards, sideways, right-side-up, upside-down and inside-out and a message that kids will be interested in good food not because it’s healthy, but because it’s cool.

Do your kids like to play with their food instead of eating it? Here are some experiments to help them test, explore and learn about food: http://www.stevespanglerscience.com/experiments/food-science

What books, magazines or other resources do you and your kids follow to get inspired in the kitchen? Please share in the comments below.

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