CASH · Healthy Eating · Parenting · Salt

What can the out of home sector do to reduce salt in children’s meals?

With the recent report from Action on Salt highlighting the amount of salt in children’s meals action is required from the out of home sector. Here are some top tips to help the sector reduce salt.

1) Identify which of your meals have added salt and look at alternative ways to add flavour – herbs, spices, onion, garlic

2) Avoid salting vegetables, rice and pasta. Mix the sauce into the pasta, the true Italian way, and the pasta will have fuller flavour. 

3) Check your chefs are following the recipe and not adding more salt than the recipe states. Make sure your chefs are well hydrated too because they will probably add more salt if they aren’t.

4) Ask, do you need to add bread to a meal which already is starchy. Bread is not bad but it needs salt in production so it could be increasing the salt content of your meals unnecessarily.

5) Reduce the amount of processed meat on your menu. Processed meat has been shown to increase risk of some cancers so if we care about future consumers we need to think about their health. Processed meat is high in salt so switching to other meats will reduce the salt content. The cost of meat can be an issue but cheaper cuts like chicken thighs or stewing beef could be tried or ask for expert advice on alternatives.

6) Increase the vegetarian options. Vegetarians have often only been given one option but Quorn, tofu, beans and lentils are a great alternative to meat and often lower in salt. Children often have these on their school menus so they are familiar to them; it is all about what you do with these ingredients and how you market them.

7) Consider your portion sizes. If the portions of fruit and veg are large enough then the portions of high salt foods can be smaller without customers feeling short changed. Plus you can market it as having a portion of your 5 a day.

8) Employ someone to help you with your menu. You can do lots yourself but sometimes it is worth getting some help. A Registered Nutritionist can help you. I may be able to help so drop me a line if you want advice. Otherwise go to Sense Nutrition for a list of suitably qualified professionals.   

food · Health promotion · Healthy Eating · Policy

Food poverty – sadly not a thing of the past

Food poverty is real. It is a reality for over 600,000 people in Greater Manchester. It is shameful.

Infographic: GMPA

Action needs to be taken and today saw the launch of the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Action Plan overseen by the Greater Manchester Poverty Alliance. For more information click here

Pledges have been made by councils, third sector organisations (such as Pledge and Fareshare) and businesses (such as Kelloggs) and the Alliance is asking for further pledges including financial ones to cover the costs of someone to oversee this vital work.

I also made a pledge:

As a Registered Nutritionist with a background in working in community development, I am happy to help in any way I can. Specifically I can help with:

1)     the development of resources for schools so they can achieve the following action: Schools should teach good food on a tight budget e.g. as part of the Curriculum for Life, and where possible offer food support and education to parents as well as pupils e.g. creating recipe cards for pupils to take home

2)     providing training and support to the network of food support providers on nutrition and help the development of minimum standards. Specifically looking at providing for the service users’ nutritional needs using the lowest cost ingredients.

As a business I also commit to ensure all surplus food from the work/events I run is put to good use and where possible local providers and businesses are used to provide the goods and services needed to run my business.

I am happy to work with other organisations to achieve the above. Do get in touch if you can help or would benefit from support.

This blog has a number of previous articles about living on a budget and key skills we can teach our children about food which support the work of this vital action plan. In the coming months, more resources will be developed. Watch this space.

Some of the organisations involved
food · Health promotion · Healthy Eating · Policy

Does healthy eating have to hurt the planet?

CSIRO_ScienceImage_3224_Pulses_and_legumes.jpg

Image: Commons Wikimedia -https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CSIRO_ScienceImage_3224_Pulses_and_legumes.jpg

 

This is a very complicated question because there are so many factors involved, but it has been the subject of much debate over the last few years.

The latest headline comes from work by scientists at Harvard University in the USA. The proposed diet moves us all away from eating as much meat (particularly red meat) and encourages us to eat more fruit and veg, more nuts and pulses. The amounts below are averages so you might have 100g of red meat on one day and then no more for the rest of the week for example.

  1. Nuts – 50g a day
  2. Beanschickpeaslentils and other legumes – 75g a day
  3. Fish – 28g a day
  4. Eggs – 13g a day (so one and a bit a week)
  5. Meat – 14g a day of red meat and 29g a day of chicken
  6. Carbs – whole grains like bread and rice 232g a day and 50g a day of starchy vegetables
  7. Dairy – 250g – the equivalent of one glass of milk
  8. Vegetables -(300g) and fruit (200g)

The diet has room for 31g of sugar and about 50g worth of oils like olive oil. (Source BBC)

Full details of the diet can be found here.

This diet still encourages eating fish (one of which should be oily) for health reasons and red meat is also a great source of iron so an important part of the diet.

I think this diet is manageable. It is realistic and you can make some very tasty things with the variety of ingredients on offer. Unlike a full vegan diet, followed properly, it should give you enough iodine and B12.

But like any diet, it requires knowledge to be able to follow it and achieve the health outcomes the authors desire. Why not take some steps today and swap one of your processed food snacks for a handful of nuts (unless you are allergic of course), and take one of your meat based meals and swap it for a legume based meal. Here are 2 to try:

Lentil Bolognese (you can swap the mushrooms for carrots if you are not keen on mushrooms)

Bean Curry (you can use any type of bean, you could even try a tin of mixed beans for variety)

 

If you are interested in this topic, the British Dietetic Association has also done work in this field. See here for more information.

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.