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

Spaghetti.jpg

Healthy Eating · Parenting · Pregnancy

Eating healthily whilst pregnant and nauseous

Congratulations you are pregnant! Exciting times ahead and what a responsibility; you are the sole provider of nutrition for your unborn baby. And as if that wasn’t enough, you also have to deal with nausea, tiredness, aches… Who would be pregnant!?

As someone who couldn’t open my mouth without being sick for a period of pregnancy I would rather not repeat, I am very sympathetic of the reader who requested this post.

Here are some tips for eating well whilst being nauseous.

Tip 1: Keep Hydrated

The most important thing to make sure you do when you are pregnant and nauseous is to stay well hydrated. This is often the reason women end up in hospital in pregnancy with their ‘morning sickness’. Small sips of water totalling about 2 litres a day is the aim. If you can’t stomach plain water, add unsweetened squash or have some decaffeinated tea (although don’t drink 2 litres of tea or it may affect your iron absorption!). Avoid sweetened drinks, for the sake of your teeth but also your mood. Avoid having more than 2 cups of caffeinated tea or coffee a day.

Tip 2: Snack well

You may find it helpful to have small meals or snacks throughout the day, rather than big meals. Strong flavours and smells can often make you feel more nauseous so dry foods such as wholemeal crackers or breadsticks can help. Better still, vegetable sticks such as carrots, celery, cucumber, peppers, and raw baby sweetcorn or raw sugar snap peas are a great snack. If you feel you need more calories, dip them in homous or have them with a handful of nuts or seeds. Plain yoghurt is also a good snack with a handful of berries.

Tip 3: Limit sugary and high fat snacks

If you don’t have sugary or high fat snacks in the house, it makes it a lot harder to eat them! Yes, you can send your partner out to get some but at least they are not right under your nose. If you can, limit sugary or high fat snacks to one a day. This includes highly processed snacks. Remember cravings last about 20 minutes usually. If you feel like you want a snack, have a drink of water, go away and do something else and if you still want something to eat, try and have something savoury and within the balance of the Eatwell Guide. If you can have snacks which are high in fibre, this can help reduce the risk of constipation too.

Tip 4: It’s all about balance

As always, try and stick to the Eatwell Guide. If you have already had lots of starchy carbohydrates today, it might be time for some protein (eg pulses, meat, fish, eggs, nuts), some fruit and veg, or some dairy (or alternatives like almond or soya milk).

Tip 5: Don’t kid yourself, you are not eating for two.

Yes, you are eating for 2 in a sense but not in the way we often think of it. You need nutrients for your baby but you only need extra calories in the last trimester. Even then you only need 200kcal extra a day (which you get from 50g cheese, a chicken leg or a bagel). If you eat lots of extra calories in pregnancy, you only have to get rid of them later, so if you can avoid unnecessary weight gain in pregnancy, it helps later down the line.

Good luck!

For further tips on eating well during pregnancy, check out First Steps Nutrition

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Health promotion · Healthy Eating · Parenting

Portion sizes for children

All children are different and have different appetites. Here are 8 tips to help all those with responsibility for feeding children to know how much to give them.

  1. Know the child’s weight and get them weighed regularly (at least once a year for school-age children, more often for younger children). If they are tracking along their growth chart, they are probably getting the right amount of food (although not necessary the right type of food)
  2. Look at the balance of food across their day. Focus more on the variety and types of food, rather than just the amount. Focus on fresh, unprocessed foods. Focus on the nutrients rather than just the calories. From the age of 2, children’s diets should reflect the Eatwell Guide.
  3. Make sure your child is well hydrated. Children should have about 1-1.5l a day and more when it is hot. Water is the ideal drink. It is important to limit sugary drinks as well as limiting fruit juice to 150ml a day). For more specific amounts for different age groups click here
  4. Give your child a small amount of each food and let them ask for more. This will help them to regulate their own appetite
  5. Banish the rule which says you have to finish everything on your plate
  6. Encourage your child to have regular meals and not snack in between meals and your regular snack times
  7. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ or ‘you have had enough’.
  8. If in doubt, ask a health professional

 

Remember, food is not just about calories, it is amount nutrition, social activity, learning and new experiences. Get your child involved with every stage as they learn to love food.

 

Policy

Consultation on Nutrient Profiling

There is currently a consultation out on the thresholds for which foods can be advertised to children.

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-the-uk-nutrient-profiling-model-2018-review

Here is my response:

I welcome the proposed changes in the nutrient profiling. I specifically welcome the change from total sugar to free sugar in line with the SACN recommendations for free sugars. There is a lot of confusion around labelling of sugar so I hope this change in the nutrient profiling will lead to a change in labelling in due course. I also welcome the update in the fibre amounts as this is a crucial nutrient for health which is often overlooked with the focus on calories. I hope these changes will go some way in supporting the education of the consumer on the foods which make healthier choices. I also hope that the food industry will respond by reformulating products across their whole to make them higher in fibre and lower in free sugar, salt and fat as we know children don’t always choose the food advertised, rather they choose that brand.

Aliya Porter – Registered Nutritionist – Porter Nutrition

 

I would like to see a ban on advertising foods to children on TV because it is all about brand awareness and there are no regulations on the other foods that brand sells but this is a step in the right direction.

food

Musings of a nutritionist in Scarborough

 

On a recent trip to the seaside (in a rather cold week in February) I came across a couple of activities in the market hall in Scarborough which I thought I would share.

As I entered into the old hall I was pleasantly surprised to see a traditional butcher and masses of fresh fruit and vegetables. Around the edge of the lower section of the hall were stalls and eateries including an intriguing shop full of barrels of food.

In these barrels you could find pulses, pasta, rice, cereal, scone mix, dried fruit and much more. You could by in weight so you didn’t have to buy a full box. What a great way for a single person to shop – or someone on holiday for a short period of time. Students, the elderly and many more who shop for one could benefit from this kind of service. Prices were comparable to packets you would find in the supermarket and shoppers would save on food waste and packaging too. I hope we get one of these in Manchester soon…

Upstairs in the market hall we were able to have fish and chips with a twist (yes, a nutritionist can enjoy fish and chips!). The Seafood Social is a social enterprise which aims to tackle homelessness and the issues that lead to homelessness. Profits from our lunch go into the support and employment opportunities are given to support vulnerable people. It’s not the place I would recommend you get your portions of fruit and veg but the food was well cooked, not too oily and freshly made.

Pictured below are the scampi and the seafood platter both of which were yummy (I had one of them!).

A nutritionist is never really on holiday. Food is everywhere but one of the things I love about my job is being able to see how different parts of the country (and the world) interact with food. And as The Seafood Social shows, food can be a driver for positive change.