If children have the ability to make better food choices and prepare meals from real food then the relationship that those children and their children have with food will be far healthier. Grabbing a fast food meal on the go is not an ideal way to eat nor digest food. The objective of a combined theoretical and practical approach to teaching nutrition and cooking skills should be to allow children to make informed food choices. The advantage of doing it through this course is that children can learn about nutrition theory and practice in their home environment.
Let’s first understand when and why we stopped learning about nutrition and health in schools. Throughout the 70’s and 80’s the women’s rights issues were very prevalent and there was much emphasis on sciences and mathematics. I, like many of my peers, duly went off to study for a Bachelor of Science degree and didn’t think for a moment about having any other life than a corporate career.
That was very much the thinking at the time and this was only compounded by the views of our female political leader at the time too:
“…during the Thatcher years when the education ministry decided that what the country needed were not cooks who could feed themselves and their families, but food technologists who could work in the nation’s food factories: people who could design a theoretical frozen pizza, but who’d not the first idea of how to make a pizza. And so we created that generation of children we saw in Jamie’s School Dinners who don’t know a carrot from an onion and whose parents also don’t know a stick of celery from a cauliflower.”
Sheila Dillon, BBC Food Blog 8 Feb 2011
How we have become unstuck!
Like many of my peers, once we had children things became a little unstuck. For me, despite loving food I knew only how to eat it, not prepare it. Mine is not an isolated story. Many children have missed out on an education in life skills and that includes nutrition.
Having now gained a second degree in nutrition I am pleased to say that my skills are far improved. However, as I go into primary and senior schools now it becomes evident how little emphasis is put on the link between nutrition and performance.
The emphasis, belatedly, seems to be on ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food and is even policed, in some cases by 10 year olds!
“A primary school has appointed 10-year-olds as ‘packed lunch police’ with the power to inspect the food younger pupils bring to school – and even issue warnings if it is unhealthy.”
The Daily Mail 28 September 2014
Furthermore the guidelines for teaching are based on outdated information. For example the ‘Eat Well Plate’, which is referred to widely and used by many teachers, places a great deal of emphasis on starchy foods. According to the FSA ‘Starchy foods should make up about a third of the food we eat. Most people should be eating more starchy foods.’
However, a lot of starchy foods, in fact those eaten most commonly, have both a high glycaemic index and glycaemic load. That means that they could lead to a rise in insulin production in those consuming them and thus a rise in obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Due to the high GI and GL of such foods they also leave individuals feeling unsatisfied and in need of food again sooner after eating.
It must be questioned why the Eat Well Plate places so much emphasis on starchy foods but also why there’s a can of fizzy drink and a packet of potato crisps pictured as part of the plate.
Is Food Technology the new Home Economics?
The image of Home Economics is sadly unchanged and although roughly the same numbers of pupils take it as a subject in its modern guise ‘Food Technology’ they do so as a one-term-only module. That’s one session per week for perhaps 9 weeks. Those taking the subject previously (dare I say ‘the old days’) would have studied for a whole year.
Even if pupils choose to study food technology for more than the allotted 9 week term once per year, the new version is more about preparing pupils to work in the food industry but not necessarily nutrition and rarely the skills of food preparation and cooking.
The issue of teaching the subject of nutrition seems to have been laid at the door of the science teachers or in primary schools with the class teacher. However, many are ill prepared to teach this subject.
Furthermore they are unable to relate the theory to the reality of actually preparing simple nutritious meals and snacks from real food in the home environment. These two subjects are so intrinsically linked that I do not understand anyone who questions the logic of teaching the two together. This combined learning also reflects the styles of learning that we know to be the most prevalent i.e. visual, auditory, and tactile.
Is this to blame for obesity?
Without sound nutrition knowledge, and knowledge of the origins of food and how to prepare it, many professionals and experts are proposing that the public are unable to make the right food choices and in turn this is affecting the health of those living in the western world and beyond.
Alice Lichtenstein, DSc, professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University, believes this has a direct link to the obesity epidemic.
Since 1980, as traditional home ec classes waned, the rate of obesity among children ages 2 to 19 tripled.
“The decline of home economics is a huge part of the shift in this country to mindless eating,”
Michael Moss, Author ‘Salt, Sugar, Fat’
Prevention is better than cure
If children have the ability to make better food choices and prepare meals from real food then the relationship that those children and their children have with food will be far healthier.
Grabbing a fast food meal on the go is not an ideal way to eat nor digest food. The objective of a combined theoretical and practical approach to teaching nutrition and cooking skills should be to allow children to make informed food choices.
The advantage of doing it through this course is that children can learn about nutrition theory and practice in their home environment.
How can children learn about food in the home environment?
The most important areas to cover are:
- Where ingredients come from?
- The link between food consumption and the risk for disease
- Nutrition information and how to label read?
- Understanding food marketing and advertising i.e. don’t believe everything you read on the packaging or see on the advert
- Cooking techniques
These subjects will be covered as part of this ‘teaching children nutrition’ course.
You will also find out some really practical advice on:
- How to reduce the amount of junk food and increase the amount of real food in your diet as a family? Let’s call this a ‘gentle family detox’.
- The importance of vegetables and fruit.
- What’s the best way to enjoy breakfast?
- What to provide in nutritionally balanced lunchboxes?
- A new, healthier way to have your cake and eat it.
The course will be available immediately for you to access and you will have the opportunity to carry out various related actions as you go through the course. There will also be online support by the tutor and via social media for all those who become members of this course.
What should the future look like? We should be working towards a more informed generation where food choices are concerned.
The best way to empower children to make those choices for themselves now but also for THEIR children in the future is to teach them the real facts.
We have to detach marketing messaging and the vested financial interest of food brands such as the sponsorship of fitness programmes and events by fast food brands, and focus on the real facts.
What we teach our children has to reflect the best of our knowledge from the latest research. A tall ask perhaps? With the right information this is achievable and I want to provide you with the right information. That is the objective of this course.
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