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Practical ways to hone healthy food habits

Obesity is now set to overtake smoking as the number one cause of cancer. Poor diets and excessive portions are primary factors for the growing rates of obesity in the UK, causing cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and the increased the risk of stroke.  Almost 40% of NHS funding is currently being spent on preventable lifestyle related illnesses.

Such alarming statistics are hardly surprising when consumers are presented with overly salty, fatty and sugary options at every opportunity.  We are constantly targeted by advertising for unhealthy foods, whilst supermarkets strategically place items attractive to children and adults alike at a lower eye level to ensure they see them and are lured into buying them with special offers. Of course, ads on the television invade our domestic space too, but the only way to really alter eating habits is at home. The earlier children are exposed to healthier lifestyle habits, the more likely they are to embrace them throughout their life.  As individuals, how can we reinvigorate our lifestyle and eating patterns?

  1. Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables
  2. Increase variety of whole grains and legumes
  3. Reduce our sugar intake
  4. Develop a realistic and achievable meal plan, likable to children and adults

One very real way that can help to achieve this is by knowing what’s in your food and Cooking at home. 

Learning Skills for Life

Cooking truly is a core life skill, something that can transform one’s appreciation for food, pique interest in new ingredients and increase our knowledge of nutrition. For the ambivalent eaters, cooking can awaken a new point of interest make food a more enjoyable experience.  Families who cook together tend to enjoy the whole food experience, having invested in the meal from start to finish. Developing children’s tastes for new and unusual flavours and ingredients will inform their relationship with food, developing a positive emotional connection for years to come.  If you don’t already cook with your children then book them onto a kids cookery class.

A study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill showed that healthy eating is a learned skill that starts in the home. It is more difficult to ensure children are eating healthily at school, so it is all the more important to encourage good habits at home. This goes for working parents too, of course, where lunch options are often limited and either unhealthy or prohibitively expensive. The majority of us learn our food habits from our parents and those habits manifest themselves in the future in everyday decisions. For example, will we cook our own food or order a takeaway? Will we snack on an apple or a chocolate bar?

Here are some practical ways to hone healthier food habits.

  • Encourage children to take a more active role in choosing, preparing and cooking simple meals. Let them buy an ingredient at the supermarket and then involve them in making something with it. This can open their eyes to a wider variety of foods and gives them autonomy.
  • It is important for children to see where food comes from. You could go to a farmer’s market or apple picking. Even better, get growing! Children love to eat what they’ve grown – and you don’t need a garden. A pot of herbs like basil will grow on a windowsill. You can then make simple pesto pasta.
  • Eat together and at the table. Studies have found that we eat smaller portions when we eat at the table and with company. Eating in front of the television distracts us, and can stop us from deciding we are full when we have eaten enough. Serve children whatever you eat, they’re more likely to try things that the whole family’s tucking into.
  • Try not to have unhealthy snacks in the house, out of sight out of mind! Fruits, carrot sticks, low sugar cereals, low sugar yogurts are better options than crisps, biscuits and chocolate.
  • Hide the veg. Sometimes it’s necessary to disguise vegetables in children’s favourite meals. Throw carrots, peppers and onions into bolognaise sauce and add cooked and mashed carrots, butternut squash, sweet potato or swede to normal mashed potato.
  • Centre puddings around fruit. Crumbles, fruity cakes and tray bakes are all simple to make with children and can be low in sugar and high in fruit.
  • Chop ripe banana into bite-sized pieces and freeze them. Frozen banana chunks look and taste great and make a healthy alternative to ice-cream and lollies.

 

Cookery classes are available for Young Adults aged 16-19 years, as well as Kids cookery classes starting from aged 10 to 15 at thecookingacademy.co.uk

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