Cooking · Parenting

Cooking with children – part 2

When I wrote part 1, I promised there would be more… Here it is!

Last time we talked about: Hand hygiene, general yuk, listening to an adult, not touching things they have not been asked to touch, stirring skills, measuring out ingredients, food handling and the language of recipes

This time, we are going to look at some more skills.

Chopping skills

You may be nervous about letting your child use a knife but it is important children learn to use one. Start with a non serrated butter knife and let them spread their homous on their bread. You could then graduate to cutting soft bread or avocado. There are also child safe cooking knives on the market which use a sawing action to cut things. You can use these to cut vegetables but it is quite a different action to a regular chopping action. As your child becomes more confident, let them put their hand on top of yours as you cut things up so they get used to the action required and when you are happy, let them have a go. Make sure they are always supervised and the knife is not too heavy for them.

It is really important that you don’t micromanage cutting things. If the pepper pieces are not all exactly even, don’t interfere. Praise your child regardless of the uniformity of the product! If they think they can’t do it perfectly, they might not want to have a go next time. If what they are cutting needs to be a bit more uniform so the cooking time is even, help them cut the pieces into similar sizes.

You may find for certain ingredients, for example, bacon or sundried tomatoes, using scissors is easier than a knife.

Oven and hob safety

It goes without saying that ovens and hobs can be dangerous. Teach your child not to touch the door of the oven or the stove top, teach them to turn the pan handles in and to use oven gloves when touching hot things. Children will eventually need to learn to get things out of the oven but do this in stages, get them used to stirring things on the hob with you supervising making sure they don’t touch other things at the same time and then let them practise using oven gloves to move things round the kitchen. Once you are happy they are in charge of both of their hands at the same time and they can safely wear the gloves, you can help them to use the oven. Always supervise.

Food hygiene

From making sure you thoroughly wash vegetables to using different chopping boards for raw and cooked foods to how to store food, there is lots to learn about food hygiene. There is too much to discuss here but children have to learn all these things at some point so it is best they learn them from you rather than finding out after they have given the whole family food poisoning. There is some great information here to get you started.

Portion control

Working out how much each person can eat is a challenge for even the most experienced of cooks but it is a skill children need to learn. Looking at the portion sizes on packets can help but some are way out! Experimenting is part of the learning process. If you have cooked far too much, talk to your child about how you can cook less next time but also how you might be able to use up the leftovers. Love Food Hate Waste have lots of tips on this.

Tidying up!

No matter how big your kitchen is, you will need to tidy up at some point. Teaching your child to tidy up as they go along is a skill that can be useful outside the kitchen too! So as you are waiting for something to come to the boil or to bake in the oven, start clearing the work surfaces so you have space to do the next part of the cooking process

 

 

Remember, try to have these skills in mind when you are cooking with a child. The end result might not be amazing but think of what they have learnt in the process. Remember cooking is part of play, it needs to be fun (and quite messy!).

I’d love to hear about what you cook with your children.

 

Cooking · food · Healthy Eating

Jacket potato with tuna and salad

The humble jacket potato gets a lot a bad press but potatoes are a good source of starchy carbohydrate and vitamins, we just need to be careful what we put on them. Jacket potatoes are also a relatively cheap meal.

The focus should be on the vegetables. For a main meal, aim to have 2 portions of vegetables. Remember we are trying to eat a rainbow so different coloured vegetables are important.

For example 80g grated carrot, 80g chopped tomatoes, 140g canned tuna (or 140g tinned salmon if you are having oily fish) and a tablespoon a mayonnaise on top of your potato. The tomato (or sweetcorn if you want) will add moisture so you don’t need to add extra butter or oil to your potato.

You will be surprised how full you are after eating the topping so judge the amount of potato based on your appetite.

 

 

food · Health promotion · Healthy Eating

Should we even be selling food which can cause harm?

This is a question to wrestle with. I am not going to give you the answer but share a few thoughts to start off your dinner time discussion!

With the latest cancer prevention report suggesting processed meat should, if possible, be avoided and the government consulting (finally) on a total ban of the sale of energy drinks to children based on the overwhelming body of evidence which says that the levels of caffeine in energy drinks are harmful to children, we need to ask ourselves whether products like these should even be allowed to be produced, let alone, sold legally?

We know that alcohol is harmful, we know that cigarettes are harmful and yet we continue to sell these (although there are restrictions of course), why, perhaps because of the taxes they bring in or perhaps because we are fortunate enough not to live in a dictatorship. We know that not wearing a seat belt can be harmful so there is legislation in place to ensure we wear one to protect ourselves. Where are the parameters for food?

There are clearly some foods which are banned. The EU has very strict testing for approving additives, whether natural or artificial, and there are very strict safety and hygiene standards for foods produced or sold in the EU (let’s hope it stays like this post Brexit, but that is a discussion for another day!). But beyond the safety and hygiene of a product, what about foods which might not kill us or make us ill in the short term but ones which might have an impact on the quality or overall length of our lives?

I am an advocate of choice. Restricting a product and it doesn’t necessarily have the desired effect. Look at the impact of taxing sugary drinks, yes manufacturers responded by reducing the sugar in their drinks but they did not necessarily reduce the sweetness of the drinks. The focus was on calories, and not on the quality of the food consumed. The focus on calories is not a great message for the public. Children do not need to focus on calories, the tragic stories of eating disorders or of young children hating their own bodies show us that. Pregnant women should not focus on calories, yes, they should not be eating for 2 in terms of energy but the focus has to be on the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) the calories contain.

Policy makers have a hard job trying to balance the market and consumer demands with the scientific evidence but at some point the weight of the evidence must prevail. It may take time, like it did to get the ban on smoking in public places put in, but it must be done. I hope the consultation on banning the sale of energy drinks to children will lead to legislation. The supermarkets have already put a ban in place so we are half way there. I wonder if there are other foods we should have similar restrictions on – processed meat perhaps? For the sake of children, especially those from low income households, this might be needed. BUT we must look at the unintended consequences, we must ensure the quality improves of the cheaper products without pricing the poorest even further out of a healthy diet.

What do you think?

Healthy Eating · Pregnancy

Healthy Eating in Pregnancy

I recently had the opportunity to speak to midwives at the Northern Maternity and Midwifery Festival about nutrition in pregnancy. If you are a health professional who works with pregnant women, or those trying to become pregnant, here is a little CPD.

If you are pregnant or trying to conceive, you may find the information helpful too, albeit in a different format.

Improving dietary intake through knowledge and behaviour change – Aliya Porter from Policy Review on Vimeo.

Cooking · Parenting

Cooking with children – part 1

This is the first in a series of articles for parents and carers about the skills I think children need to develop around cooking

When it comes to cooking with our children it is easy to get into the habit of baking with our children rather than cooking with them. Teaching our children cooking skills is vital so here are some thoughts about the sorts of skills which will give them a head start when they are left to their own devices in the kitchen.

Hand hygiene

Before starting any food preparation children should learn that they need to wash their hands, not wet them, wash them. I recently talked to a group of 4 and 5 year olds about ‘painting their hands with soap’ (making sure the bubbles go over all their fingers, their thumbs, their palms and the backs of their hands) and then ‘washing off the paint’  This makes a game out of handwashing but it also helps them understand that the whole hand needs washing and ALL the soap has to come off. Then, encourage them to dry them properly – wiping their hands on their trousers or skirts is not the way to do it before food prep. Be light hearted about it.

General yuk

My boys also learnt pretty quickly that they would be banished to wash their hands again if they picked their nose or their ears when they were cooking! Sneezing and coughing are also not a great way to make healthy food!

Listening to an adult

There are lots of things in a kitchen which are great fun but there are also things which could hurt them. They need to learn to listen otherwise the activity won’t be nearly as much fun.

Not touching things they have not been asked to touch

Again this comes down to safety but also to learning how a recipe works. If you put the pasta in the saucepan with them raw mince, you are going to have a very different dish to the intended spaghetti bolognese. Not touching this they have not been asked to touch is definitely a transferable skill!

Stirring skills

My dad is an excellent stirrer but this is not the sort of stirring children need to learn to be good in the kitchen! It’s quite an art to thoroughly mix ingredients, be patient and, if necessary, hold the spoon with them rather than just doing it yourself.

Measuring out ingredients

Depending on the age of the child, they can get involved in the weighing out. All children can get involved in measuring though. If they are very young, you can pre-measure the ingredients into bowls and then they can spoon the ingredient in, counting the spoonfuls.

Food handling

Some children will love to get messy, others will hate it. Find the activities which suit the child but don’t be afraid of gently pushing them to try to do something new. If they won’t stick their hands in the mince and onions to make meatballs, get them to help put the pre-made meatballs on a baking tray (a cold one!) ready for cooking.

The language of recipes

I remember an early date when my boyfriend, now husband, was rescued by his housemate whilst trying to cook me a mushroom soup for a Valentine’s Day meal. He almost did what many have done before him, put a whole bulb of garlic into the soup instead of a clove. The result could have been interesting!

There are lots of words in recipes which will expand your child’s vocabulary like whisk, beat, fold, dice. There are also lots of abbreviations to get used to tbsp (tablespoon) and tsp (teaspoon), oz (ounce), g (gram). The art of reading a recipe is a key skill for children and adults alike. Being able to read a recipe opens up volumes of recipe books with endless inspiration for meals.

 

There are many more skills but I think this is enough for now, part 2 to follow. Try to have these skills in mind when you are cooking with a child. The end result might not be amazing but think of what they have learnt in the process. Remember cooking is part of play, it needs to be fun (and quite messy!).

I’d love to hear about what you cook with your children.

 

Diet · Health promotion · Healthy Eating · Policy

Eating to reduce your risk of cancer

Today sees the launch of the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. The report takes all the studies on cancer and brings them together to see what the evidence base is. It takes all the individual studies you see in the newspapers and many more and brings them together. The report is 2000 pages long!

What does the new report recommend? (directly copied from http://www.aicr.org/reduce-your-cancer-risk/recommendations-for-cancer-prevention/)

1Be a healthy weight
Keep your weight within the healthy range and avoid weight gain in adult life

2Be physically active
Be physically active as part of everyday life— walk more and sit less

3Eat a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans
Make whole grains, vegetables, fruits and pulses (legumes) such as beans and lentils a major part of your usual daily diet

4Limit consumption of “fast foods” and other processed foods high in fat, starches or sugars
Limiting these foods helps control calorie intake and maintain a healthy weight

5Limit consumption of red and processed meat
Eat no more than moderate amounts of red meat, such as beef, pork and lamb. Eat little, if any, processed meat

6Limit consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks
Drink mostly water and unsweetened drinks

7Limit alcohol consumption
For cancer prevention, it’s best not to drink alcohol

8Do not use supplements for cancer prevention
Aim to meet nutritional needs through diet alone

9For mothers: breastfeed your baby, if you can
Breastfeeding is good for both mother and baby

10After a cancer diagnosis: follow our Recommendations, if you can
Check with your health professional about what is right for you

Also: Not smoking and avoiding other exposure to tobacco and excess sun are also important in reducing cancer risk.
Following these Recommendations is likely to reduce intakes of salt, saturated and trans fats, which together will help prevent other non-communicable diseases.

 

If you need help changing your lifestyle, do get in touch. The key thing is to make sustainable changes.

Weaning

Is baby ready for solids?

There are many myths around the signs a baby is ready for solid foods, you may have heard a few.

Baby is watching me eat

Babies learn by watching and doing. It is natural for them to look at you and be interested in what you are doing. This in itself is not a sign that they are ready.

Baby is waking in the night

If only solids would solve this! Unfortunately we parents may never know why our babies wake in the night. It could be hunger, wind, requiring a nappy change, they are too hot, too cold… This in itself is not a sign that they are ready. And, don’t expect your baby to sleep through after you start solids, baby may well be more unsettled as their tummies get used to processing new foods.

My baby is no longer satisfied at the end of a feed

It may be that baby needs more milk but this in itself is not a sign that they are ready. Baby food is not as high in calories as you might think so they actually need to have quite a bit to get the number of calories they get from milk. When you first start weaning, baby will take only very small amounts of food, milk will still be an essential source of nutrition.

My baby isn’t putting on as much weight as they did before

If you look at the growth charts in baby’s red book you will see that the curve is not as steep at 5 or 6 months as it was at 3 months (just as well, your baby would be huge by the time they got to a year!). The growth slows and baby develops in other ways. This is natural and not a sign they are ready for solids on its own.

Baby is big

This in itself is not a sign that they are ready, you need to look for the developmental signs as big babies can get all they need from milk in the first 6 months of life.

The baby foods in the baby food aisle say ‘from 4 months’

This just means they are not safe before 4 months. It doesn’t mean you have to start solids at 4 months.

 

So what are the signs! When baby has all three of these, they are ready for solids:

  1. Baby can hold their head up unaided. They can sit up with a little support but not require too much support.
  2. Baby can pick something up and put it in their mouth.
  3. Baby can swallow food when it goes in their mouth – you will have to try them with some food to check but if they just push it out with their tongue and don’t swallow it, they are not ready.

These developmental signs usually occur around 6 months in babies born after 37 weeks gestation. This coincides with enough maturity of the gut, kidneys and immune system to cope with solids.

Remember, it is not safe to start your baby on solids before they are 17 weeks (4 months), the NHS recommendation is about 6 months.

 

To book onto a course which will guide you through all you need to know about starting baby on solids click here

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