CBC's Mike Wise on eating together

CBC's Mike Wise on eating together

Like many parents, Mike Wise faces challenges finding time to sit at the dinner table with his family. His nightly gig hosting CBC News Toronto at 11 p.m. "puts a premium on spending meals together."

Wise spoke to CBC's Live Right Now about finding the value in a family eating together and offered tips for other parents juggling busy lives and conflicting schedules.

Wise's four-year-old daughter, in her best princess dress, makes 'soup'

Why is eating together important to you?

It was always a family tradition growing up. It is a time for me to connect with my wife and daughter, give thanks and say grace, and spend some time together.

It has certainly helped us socialize our daughter, bringing her up to know her manners, and a sense of how to eat a properly-balanced meal.

For me, it is also important to carve that time out from the rest of our day: we don't answer the phone if it rings -- we don't bring our devices or any reading material to the table.

Who sits with you at your dinner table? Tell us a little about your family.

My wife is a hospital administrator and we have a four-year-old daughter (going on 14).

cbc-mike-wise70x78.jpg CBC News Toronto's Mike Wise

Mike Wise is the anchor of CBC News Toronto at 11, weeknights at 11 p.m. Mike's covered every beat, including seven years as the Ontario legislative reporter for CBC Television.

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You work nights as the anchor of CBC News Toronto at 11. How do you find time to eat with your loved ones?

It poses its challenges. Since I'm not home Monday to Friday, that puts a premium on spending meals together on Saturday and Sunday. Quite often, our weekend dinners are spent with family or friends.

I have the "morning shift" with my daughter, when I feed her breakfast and get her dressed and ready to go to junior kindergarten. I also regularly make dinner before I go in, so that my wife just has to reheat her meal when she gets home.

What do you love to cook with your family?

It is a fun opportunity to spend some time together. If there's any baking to do, my daughter is right in there, helping to measure ingredients and mix the batter (and lick the spoon afterwards). We also grocery shop as a family, so we're all involved in making choices about what we'll eat in the week ahead.

Based on your past TV reports collaborating with students, you seem to love working with kids. How do you get kids interested and involved in meal preparation?

My wife has developed a great technique, where she lets my daughter make her own 'soup' at the kitchen table...

My wife has developed a great technique, where she lets my daughter make her own "soup" at the kitchen table while my wife makes dinner.

We give her a large bowl, and she measures out a few cups of water, and then starts generously adding spices (none of which she'll actually eat if we use them). She may toss in some extra onion or vegetable slices from my wife's dinner efforts. She tops it off with a few cranks of the pepper mill.

Quite often, I've come home from work late at night, to find a pot on the stove filled with her latest concoction, with a note saying "enjoy."

Is there a favourite food/dish in your household?

Like many children her age, my daughter would live on chicken fingers if left to her own devices. We have made our own version by buying chicken breasts, cutting them into strips and coating them with panko flakes or bread crumbs, and baking them in the toaster oven. It lets us cut down on excess sodium and control the quality of the meat.

This past winter, we also cooked several chilis (and froze extra portions). My daughter doesn't like spicy food, so we keep the seasoning to a minimum (and my wife and I top up our portions with Tabasco sauce to add a little extra heat).

What advice would you give to busy families who say they can't find the time to eat together?

Schedule the time. We block out all sorts of important things in our calendars. If it takes some coordination to rearrange appointments to get everyone together for a meal, so be it.

Do you have any nutrition advice or food tips?

One handy tip we've come up with involves sweet potatoes. My daughter loves to eat them as a side dish so we buy a bag of them and cook them in the oven, skins on. When they're done, we let them cool and then remove their skins (they fall off easily at this point). We put them in ziplock bags and store them in the freezer.

When we need a simple side dish, we take one out, zap it in the microwave, and mash it with a fork: instant mashed sweet potato.

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