Recently I had the great pleasure of being part of potato week including an event for children and parents involving cooking gnocchi. This sounds so simple but the importance of good nutrition in children is vital and so often overlooked.
So what is the big deal about a group of five to eight year olds, spending time with a chef learning about cooking? First and foremost, it helps them to understand that real food, rather than having ingredients, is an ingredient. The gnocchi was made from potatoes and flour, then baked and served with a tomato pasta sauce.
The children can learn that cooking is fun – much more fun than zapping something in a microwave. When we cook we use produce rather than prepared food. It will tend to be fresh or frozen rather than packaged and processed.
These sound like obvious points but we know that many children do not get an understanding of what real food is.
It is about getting the balance right. Treats are OK for children on the basis that they are a “treat” not an everyday thing. This includes an occasional trip to a fast food place, which is a fun outing for most children.
A problem in health is the all or none approach of those in public health. It was disappointing although not surprising to see a dietician tell the paper that there was no room for junk food in a healthy diet.
Memo to the wowsers – there is room for some.
Yet the same people also have funny ideas as to what constitutes healthy versus junk food.
An ad for a sweet breakfast cereal promoted the fact that it got four stars on the new government food rating system. Four stars for cereal full of sugar and artificial additives! I suspect the high rating is because it is low in fat.
The human body does best with real food – the type that our ancestors ate, the type that till recently was growing somewhere or moving around.
Vegetables, like potatoes are a part of this. Getting children (and adults) to cook is good for our health.