International flavour for home cooking
International cuisine is having an astonishing impact on the dishes mums teach their children to cook, according to research from Sainsburyâs.
Some of our favourite recipes to rustle up as adults are dishes that have been passed down through the ages from one family member to another. Although many of us enjoyed learning how to prepare traditional roast dinners as part of our childhood, it seems that Britain's broadening culinary influences are having a knock-on effect on the recipes weâre teaching our children.
But what else are we teaching our children in the kitchen? Do we still see the time-honoured skills of peeling vegetables and boiling an egg important? Has the introduction of the microwave been a positive thing for parents who lead busy lifestyles but still want to involve their children in the cooking process?
Mother and psychologist, Anjula Mutanda joins us live online on Friday 3rd March to reveal the survey results. Sheâll also be telling us what role her children play in the cooking process in her home and giving busy parents tips on how to teach their kids good nutrition.
Host: Mark Ryes (MR)
Guest: Anjula Mutanda (AM)
MR: Hello there, welcome along to the show, I’m Mark Rice. We’re talking about kids and nutrition today and how easy or not it is to get your kids into healthy food. A new study by Sainsbury’s has shown that a lot of people are introducing their kids to international food and that’s a subject that we’re going to be touching on in just a moment’s time. Anjula Mutanda is a psychologist and mother and joins me in the studio today, Hello, welcome along.
MR: Now you’ve got a five year old daughter.
AM: I have, yes.
MR: How easy has it been to kind of get her interested in food in the first place?
AM: I think it’s been relatively easy because you’ve got to start very young with children, you know, since she was about eighteen months we’ve been going to the supermarket together and we talk about fruits and vegetables, we look at different shapes and colours and that’s got her excited. So you’ve got to make food fun for a child.
MR: It’s making it fun, so an exciting experience going to the supermarket.
AM: Mmm, exactly.
MR: But most of us don’t feel that going to the supermarket is a terribly exciting experience so do you really have to gear yourself up to that?
AM: Well, I think if you’re stressed about going to the supermarket with your child or children, they’re going to pick up on that stress level and think, ‘Something bad’s going to happen, I’m going to get really anxious about this, mum’s upset’ and there you get into tantrums and negative behaviour. But I think you go, ‘Hey, let’s see what’s in the fridge and what do we need to buy?’ That kind of behaviour really excites children.
MR: So one or two tips there to start with. You can join in on today’s show, it’s very, very simple. If you look just at the bottom of the screen, just underneath where we are, you will see there is a little box to enter your name and you can submit a question to us, live in the studio here. It will go to a moderator and then they’ll come up on my screen in front of me, so let’s go to our first question that’s come in. Shaz wants to know, she thinks it’s important to teach her kids to cook because her mother didn’t teach her to cook when she was at home. She could just about make toast when she left home. So do you think, you know, that this is a role that parents should be doing?
AM: I think it’s a really good point that Shaz brings up actually, because if you don’t teach your children how to cook then you’re neglecting a life skill. You know, food is about living, it’s about nutrition, it’s about health and engaging children very young in learning about that teaches them lifelong skills and only being able to do toast actually sets you back when you have your own children. You’ve got nothing to pass on to them so you really need to start thinking about that when you have children, to include them in the food preparation and get them excited and interested in it.
MR: So what kind of simple things can we do in the kitchen then with our kids?
AM: Well, from very early on, I used to sit my daughter on the counter and she used to watch me make sandwiches, whether it’s marmite sandwiches and you know, you talk about what you’re doing and all of that kind of thing. Chopping up fruit is a great way to get kids excited, making a fruit salad, a basic fruit salad is wonderful for children. You know or getting them to sort of slice up or dice up carrots, things like that. You have to also teach them about safety so you’re teaching them more than just food preparation. You’re teaching them about knowledge about food and food safety.
MR: Of course. Lots of dangerous things in the kitchen, knives and ovens and everything else.
AM: Absolutely, yeah, yeah.
MR: So it’s a kind of learning process there as well.
AM: It is a learning … absolutely.
MR: Maureen’s sent us an interesting question, she wants to know how to get her kids interested in the first place. Thanks for sending in your question, Maureen. She says her kids show no interest in anything other than making rice crispie cakes, it’s a great place to start …
AM: Yeah, I think good start but I think that’s … I don’t know how old your children are, Maureen, but I think, you know, when kids show no interest, you have to do it gradually. You know, if you’re forcing yourself on them, they’re going to go, ‘You know what, I’m not interested.’
MR: Of course.
AM: So you say to them something like, you know, ‘What would you like on the shopping list this week?’ and that involves them and it’s that level of inclusion where they feel they’ve got some level of control. Or you say to them, ‘This evening, I’m going to leave the kitchen to you’, depending on their age.
MR: Of course.
AM: ‘I’m going to let you do a spaghetti bolognaise’ or whatever, then they think, ‘Oh, I can do that’ and it’s that sense of accomplishment that gets kids excited about cooking.
MR: Well, it’s interesting, isn’t it. How much does an apple really excite a child? Probably not but it’s what you do with it.
AM: What you do with it. If you chop it up with bananas and lovely satsumas and get different colours and fruits and flavours going together kids get interested.
MR: But this brings us on to nutrition quite well because it’s easy to teach kids about nutrition, we’re being told constantly you need to eat five fruit and vegetables a day.
MR: And a lot of the supermarkets now, Sainsbury’s included, are doing special packets for kids in the Sainsbury’s kids range about actually cutting fruit up and it’s been ready prepared and I guess that’s really a pretty good idea, isn’t it.
AM: Yes, because that’s helping with, you know, labour saving and, you know, a lot of parents would like to do food preparation from scratch but haven’t got time so if you get pre-prepared vegetables that you just simply steam, you know, that’s really helpful but still kids get to see the colours and all of that visual stuff that’s involved, yeah.
MR: Exactly right. Well, we’ll come back to nutrition in just a few moments time because, obviously, that’s a whole range of things. We’ve got some more questions coming in and thanks for sending in your questions. You can still send in your questions if you like. Just the little box underneath where we are on your computer screen, put your name and your question. Do send it in, do submit it live to the programme today. James wants to know should you get your kids involved in shopping for ingredients even before they cook with the oven, so that they understand where everything comes from?
AM: That’s a great point, James! I really like that because getting children to understand about ingredients they can see how food goes together. So we’ve just talked about the basic fruit salad, you know, you pick up these ingredients, you say … you put them together and kids go, ‘Oh yeah, I understand that.’ It’s a form of education through fun and that’s how kids learn best.
MR: And worthwhile taking a step back even further because recent studies showed that a lot of city centre kids didn’t know where milk came from, they thought it came in cartons.
AM: Amazing, isn’t it, isn’t it. So I think there are different ways of telling your children story about food so, for instance, if you’re saying, you know, ‘You go to a farm, there are cows there, you milk them … this is how it gets from A to B’ they get interested in that whole process and I’ve done that with my own daughter.
MR: When I was a kid I was a very fussy eater. I mean I was your classic fussy eater, fish fingers, chips, peas, that was fine but I didn’t really eat an awful lot else and my parents became very worried.
MR: Even that length of time ago now, you know, my parents had a job getting me interested. It’s a question of taking it step by step, isn’t it.
AM: Step by step but I think what happens psychologically, is when your child isn’t eating what you’d like them to eat, you become over -emotional and over-worried and they pick up on that and think there’s something wrong.
MR: Oh, absolutely, I mean, my parents got worried, I saw it all the time, I just …
AM: And you just go, ‘huh.’
MR: Well that made me go, ‘oh no, I don’t really want to eat anything else.’
AM: Exactly, and it’s an amazing way of grabbing attention so you have to calm down with that. If your child is a fussy present a variety of foods, get them involved in the preparation of it, give them some level of control and then step back. Let them eat it in their own way and in their own and they will do it, they will do it.
MR: Angela, we’ve got another question in. Shelley wants to know, “What are some good recipes, some basic recipes to start off with?” Thanks for your question, it’s a good one. What should we be starting … yes, rice crispie cakes are okay, not the healthiest thing in the world but that’s quite fun to actually do.
MR: Can we think of some more healthy kind of recipes to start off with?
AM: I mean, I’m not a food expert but I’ve got a child and I think in terms of things like baked potato with baked beans and cheese. These are all very basic things but you’ve got your protein, you’ve got your carbohydrates, you know, boiled broccoli, you know, bits of vegetable that you can steam that actually keep the goodness within the food are all really useful and they’re colourful as well. So I think that’s always useful to start off with.
MR: So there you go, a nice basic recipe for you.
MR: It’s a good idea … you talked about baked potatoes, which can easily be done in microwaves as well …
MR: … and it’s a concern to a lot of people about whether you should be using microwave food. We’ve had a lot of questions about microwaves and we’ll come to some specific ones in a moment’s time. Kids can be very fussy though.
MR: Question in from Louise, “My two are five and seven, classic fussy eaters, they like it bland so how can you sneak vegetables in there?”
AM: You can do it through purée, again, the different colours are vital and getting different flavours involved, but I think parents are very good at disguising food. So if you get your carrots and you blend them down and you use different kinds of sauces then they can start eating that for themselves. I mean, my daughter goes in and out of being fussy. Sometimes she just wants to eat one particular food, sometimes she wants to vary it a little bit. I think the point is not to get too worried and stressed out about what they’re eating because if you actually write down what they’ve eaten over a typical day, you’ll probably find that it’s fairly balanced. You can … you know, you can do milk shakes with fruit in there.
MR: Great idea and they love that.
AM: You know, and they love that and it’s also if it’s a nice pink, bright pink colour they’re going to drink it and they’re getting their fruits and, you know, their five a day.
MR: One of the things my mother used to do was mix puréed carrots into mashed potato.
MR: So you kind of get a slightly orange mash but you don’t really notice it, you don’t notice that you’re eating a vegetable.
AM: Exactly, disguise the food, it’s always a good idea.
MR: Let’s talk about microwaves because we mentioned it just a moment ago. Gemma wants to know, thanks for your question, Gemma. “Is it okay to use a microwave as a short cut when cooking with kids?” What do you think?
AM: Oh, this is a difficult one, Gemma and lots of calls about that one because, I think we all have microwaves in our homes, I think almost all of us.
MR: I think probably.
AW: Yes, it’s a labour-saving device and for busy parents who come in late at night, they use it as a quick fix. It depends what you’re putting into the microwave. You can steam vegetables in the microwave and that, you know, takes two to three minutes and that’s a useful utilisation of a microwave. But if you’re just throwing in something in and you haven’t thought about what you’re eating, there’s no nutritional balance then you’ve got to think about why you’re doing it.
MR: Of course baked potatoes are great in a microwave as well, very easy to do.
AW: Exactly, exactly.
MR: Imogen wants to know, also on the subject of microwaves, she says, “I ban my kids from using the microwave” because she wants them to learn for themselves. She wants to know, Imogen wants to know if she’s being too harsh though.
AW: Well, I don’t think so, Imogen. I think if you’ve actually got the time to spare, where you’re teaching your children from scratch, fantastic! Good for you and I think your kids will have life skills and they will probably make healthy meals when they’re adults themselves. But I think for some people the reality is that they’ve got to use the microwave as a labour-saving device. I know I sometimes use it but it’s what you put into it that matters.
MR: You mentioned time there. One of the things that Sainsbury’s survey actually showed was less than thirty percent of parents are actually cooking at all with their children.
AW: I know, that’s quite frightening, isn’t it.
MR: Isn’t it.
AW: Yeah, because kids are not being educated in the kitchen, they don’t have that kitchen etiquette. They’re not being … you know, they’re being quite passive around food and I think you’re also missing out on quality time and a form of communication with your children and I think parents can make the time. They just think they can’t so it doesn’t mean you have to do it every single day and cook a full blown meal. But at the weekends when there’s a little bit more space, you know, go shopping with your kids, include them in the shopping list and sit down and eat the meal together. All these things really matter.
MR: So it’s a question of just taking a little bit of time out and a little bit of time will reap rewards.
AW: Mm, absolutely.
MR: We hear an awful lot about adolescents and food eating disorders, of course, being a psychologist you would have come across this all the time.
AW: Of course, yeah.
MR: So if you can get your kids interested in food and eating healthy food from an early age presumably we’re going to see a reduction in later problems.
AW: Absolutely, because you internalise what you learn and then you just do it automatically. So if you learn bad habits as a child you’re going to have bad habits as an adult, it’s that simple.
MR: Excellent. Let’s talk about nutrition because, obviously, food and nutrition go together like er … hand and glove.
MW: Easiest one I could think of. Lucinda wants to know, “We’re being encouraged to educate our kids about the packaging and checking ingredients but how can you make than fun and not too officious, do you think?”
AM: Well, you know I really like this particular packaging here with this packet of cereal because you’ve got a child’s face there and children like looking at other children, they like making that connection. So a child will look at that and go, ‘Ooh, what’s this about?’ and on here it’s got … it’s got the prebiotics so …
MR: Do you … let me just interrupt there, do you think more than having just like cartoons on packaging?
AM: I think so you know because my daughter would respond better looking at another little girl, going, ‘Ooh, I wonder what she … ’
AM: It’s kind of that peer involvement because ‘I want to do what she’s doing’ because she’s real. I think that really has a positive effect and I’m quite excited to see that and I’d be interested to know how well that does. But it’s got information there about the prebiotic which is for us grown-ups.
MR: So the grown-ups would understand ‘prebiotic’ but you’re quite right, it says, “Perfect food for tummy-friendly bacteria” so that’s something the kids would understand as well.
AM: Yeah, and the kids go, ‘Oh, that’s good for my tummy.” So when they can relate to that they go, ‘Oh, I want to have some more of that.’
MR: It’s interesting because, Lucinda, you’re asking how you can make it not too officious. This is about the food manufacturers and retailers actually helping parents along, isn’t it.
AW: They do and parents do need help because we are bombarded with information about nutrition and often I think, ‘Well, one person says this and another person says that.’ Simplify it, put it on the packaging so that both parents and kids understand what they’re buying into.
MR: Is it worthwhile also putting on packaging things like how many calories kids should have, what the salt and fat content is, because they’re the things that, as adults, we’re being encourage to look for now?
AW: Mm, yeah. We do and I think on this particular packaging they have got it on the back and what I like about this is it says, “My nutrition, my goodness, my ingredients” and it’s per …
MR: So again, the kids can relate.
AW: Yeah. And it’s personalising it and it’s saying how many calories and how much fat and I think that’s really important. So if you’ve got a kid who’s sort of like, eight to ten years old, they can read that and really have ownership over what they’re eating.
MR: It’s a good idea and bright colours of course, on kids packaging …
AW: Of course. It’s nice. Absolutely.
MR: You know, all the drinks have kind of bright packaging as well. It’s about making different kinds of food as well but the staple foods are sometimes the most difficult. I’ve got a great question here from Imogen and it’s one that I want to know the answer to but I don’t know if you will know it. “How can I make vegetables like broccoli interesting?”
AW: Ooh, that’s a tough one!
MR: Is it possible?
AM: The funniest thing is when my daughter was about … sort of between six to nine months which apparently is a good window for introducing diversity of foods to babies, she loved broccoli. Now she’s five she can’t stand the smell of it, she can’t the sight of it so it’s about disguising it. But also if she can’t get her nutrition from broccoli, what other vegetable can you get it from? So, you know, cucumbers or leeks or something else where she can get the same level of nutrition without force-feeding the broccoli.
MR: So it’s about if your kid doesn’t like broccoli, don’t panic.
AM: Try something else, try another vegetable that they might love.
MR: Excellent, well you’ve got a range to choose from and I guess these days you’ve got more vegetables to choose from than ever before.
AM: Absolutely, and I think because there’s more variety; there is more information about. I think going shopping with your kids and introducing them that way, then they can see the choices that are available and they’d like to try something. You know, colourful food, like you rightly said, excites children, so do it that way.
MR: Excellent. If you would like to submit a question to the show today, it’s very, very simple. You’ll see a little box underneath where you’re watching us, that asks you to put your name and then submit a question and then a little ‘submit’ button. You just hit that and the question will come through to us in the studio on the screen in front of me. So that’s very good, very easy for you to join in. I’d love you to join in this afternoon. Kerry’s asked us a question, “Can you give me a few simple recipes to start off with?” Got children, what do you do?
MR: Well, you know, it’s sometimes not that easy but where do you start with your children?
AM: With my daughter, she absolutely loves spaghetti and pasta and she loves fish. She actually likes tuna fish. So actually just getting a nice bowl of pasta, mixing in some tuna and some cherry tomatoes, you get lots of good value in that, it’s a nice, full and balanced meal and then she can have, you know, the fruit and things afterwards or with a yoghurt. So that, in itself, is an easy, quick meal. You know, brown rice with a bit of fish or a pasta you know, … any tomatoes, you know, anything like that. It depends very much on your children’s palate. But I think the simpler, the better because then children can see what they’re eating and get used to different tastes.
MR: Is it true that you should really try and expand the range of ingredients that your children are eating at a very young age, that way they will become less fussy over time?
AW: Well, there is some research that shows about that window of time between six to nine months, where you introduce different kinds of food and they get used to different kinds of tastes. Because if a child’s allowed to be very fussy from very early on then they kind of carry on that habit and anything new you’re introducing, it’s a bit like, ‘Ooh, I don’t like that’. So more variety the better. But children often know their own tastes as well. Well we can also be involved in that, in influencing that.
MR: Of couse Sainsbury’s has done a lot of this research and their website’s full of good recipe ideas.
AW: Absolutely. It’s all on there, they’ve got … and some of the packaging has actually got very simple recipes on the back. So if you just look out for that then you can say, ‘Oh, I can try that at home.’
MR: Indeed, and if you want to actually go to the Sainsbury’s website we have a link at the bottom of our page so just click on that and you can go straight along to the Sainsbury’s website and find out some of those recipes. Let’s talk about nutrition again because it’s all very easy to stick with traditional English food. Our parents taught us maybe to have casseroles and whatever, it’s the kind of thing we’re not teaching our kids today.
MR: There’s a more international flavour going on now …
AM: There really is.
MR: … and I guess that just really reflects the international state of Britain today, which is great so it means like lots more flavours are coming on in there. Is it good to introduce kids to more spicy food and whatever?
AM: You know, I know a twelve month old who eats curry and she loves it, she loves it! Because mum and dad love their curry so they’ve introduced her to curries very early on. My daughter didn’t like it but, you know … so kids have an international palate because we have the Italians, the Indians, the Thai, whatever, and I think that’s so exciting. And I think the sooner you introduce your children to different flavours, they can get used to it and tell you whether they like it.
MR: And of course, it gives you a whole better range to choose from if you’re having a family meal, of course. Kelly wants to know … Kelly sent us a question, thank you for your question. “My kids love Indian and Asian food”, she says, “But when it comes to teaching them cooking I stick to the basics, spaghetti bolognaise, roasts, stuff like that.” She’d like to try stuff that’s more exotic but she takes one look at a Madhur Jaffrey recipe and gives straight up. I know what you mean. It can be quite …
AM: (Laughter). I know what she means as well.
MR: It can be quite complicated, can’t it.
AM: It can be but I think there are simpler Asian meals, like you know … dahl or lentils are made with very few spices, a bit of garlic, a few onions and you boil the lentils and you put it all together and rice. And you can actually buy the pitta bread and the chapattis from your local supermarket. So these things are readily available if you want to try them out but it doesn’t have to be complex. Because I think if you get flustered and complicated in the kitchen, you’re going to put yourself and your kids off.
MR: Ellen’s written to us with a question. “We’ve just come back from a family holiday in Greece. How easy would it be …”, I’m not sure we’re going to know the answer to this one, “How easy would it be to teach my kids how to make humous and felafel?”
AM: Oh, wow, actually, you know, I’m not a … you know, international cook, I have to admit. But I think humous and felafel aren’t that complicated. You just need a good recipe book. Why don’t you try it out at the weekend. You can learn together with your kids, ‘Let’s have a go at humous.’
MR: Great weekend experience, isn’t it.
AM: You know, and it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work out the first time because that’s what’s so exciting about cooking. It’s through trial and error.
MR: And it’s nice and warm in the kitchen when it’s freezing and raining outside!
AM: There you go.
MR: So there you go, you can actually do that as well. Now, I guess, trying different things, your kids aren’t going to like everything.
MR: How do you deal with the tantrum when they just won’t eat what you put in front of them?
AM: Look, it’s such an emotional transaction.
AM: Isn’t it. You’ve lovingly prepared this meal and I’ve had this with my own daughter and you present it to them and they just go, ‘Don’t want it.’ The best thing to do is stop it there. Don’t get involved, don’t get upset. Say, ‘Well, if you don’t eat this then there’s nothing else to eat this evening’ and they’ll soon learn that they’ve got to eat what they’re presented with and they’ll just start trying a little bit. But the more emotional you get, the more they’ll back off.
MR: So it’s about trying a little bit. We’ve just had a question in on that very subject from Tina. Thank you for your question, Tina. I’m sure she’s feeling it as well. So, baby steps literally?
AM: Baby steps. Don’t get too worried because the funny thing about kids is they know when they’re hungry and they know when they’re full and they never, ever starve. So you know, if you’re thinking, ‘They haven’t eaten all day’ they probably have been eating during the day; they’re just not eating necessarily what you’re presenting them with. If there’s too much emotional stuff going on, they’re going to back away and they’re going to think this is a great way to get attention, ‘Look, I’m driving mum up the wall’, so stop the game. ‘If you don’t eat that, that’s it, that’s what you’re getting for this evening’ and they’ll soon learn.
MR: And not make a big deal out of it.
AM: Don’t make a big deal.
MR: Excellent, well great advice there, absolutely. Well now, we’ve got some more questions coming in. We’ve got ten minutes left. If you would like to submit your question, just at the bottom of the screen you can submit your question with your name. Please do, we’d love to hear from you. Sophie’s done just that. She says, “I’m always telling my five year old daughter off for being in the kitchen” because she’s worried that she’ll burn herself. “The kitchen’s a minefield”, she says, “So it’s difficult to get her involved with cooking.” Any suggestions to kind of help ease that along a little?
AM: I understand what you’re saying, Sophie, because my daughter’s the same age and you’ve got to be very careful about how you’re involving them.
MR: Because fingers are everywhere, aren’t they.
AM: Fingers are everywhere and you’ve actually got to make your kitchen a safe space for your child to be in. And when they’re very little we have child locks everywhere. When they get older we get a little bit more relaxed. So you can think about how do you want to involve your child. You can involve them like I do with my daughter, just in buttering bread and just staying in the kitchen and supervising them. And you praise them when they do really well and you praise them when they’ve been really safe and they will remember that.
MR: This is sometimes the difficulty though, isn’t it. It’s very easy to give kids a task, make them go and do it by themselves so you’re not with them the whole time.
MR: But it is about supervision.
AM: Don’t leave a child in the kitchen on their own. That’s vital.
MR: Terry has sent us a question. “I’m terrified of letting my kids get too involved, too close to the peeling and chopping”, because he doesn’t trust them with knives.
AM: It depends how old the children are. I mean, if they’re very little then you have to be very careful. You know, I think anything under, sort of, eight years old, you have to really be on them and be very, very careful. You can try, sort of, the butter knives and just get them used to the whole process … the motor skills of getting used to that sort of thing, and supervise them. Yes, you have to be sensible, yes, you have to supervise them, but you need to give them a little bit of leeway.
MR: There’s some quite good safety peelers now as well, made of plastic rather than metal.
AM: There are.
MR: They’re quite useful to try as well, aren’t they.
AM: Absolutely, yeah, but I think start small steps with what you’re allowing your children to do.
MR: Let’s talk about ovens because ovens are a big bugbear. We’ve kind of covered knives. Microwaves are a good way to start because, obviously, you don’t get burnt from a microwave unless you’re taking hot things out, obviously. But what about the oven and the hob? Both very dangerous areas and you’ve got all the safety information about not having pan handles out.
AM: Yeah, I mean I’d be very wary about having a small child in the kitchen with certain things going on. I think, you know, I’d leave it right up until they’re in at least double figures to allow them on their own. You’ve got to stay with them. You’ve got to teach them the safety procedures with pan handles and this sort of thing. I would never let a child handle an oven. I’d never let a child handle a hob unless they were a lot older and I was there, supervising, until I felt, as a parent, that they were safe. So you’ve got to use and exercise common sense.
MR: And I guess from what we’ve been saying over the last ten minutes or so, if you’re introducing your children to the kitchen and to cooking and to ingredients early, they get more and more used to it and understand the safety aspects of the kitchen.
AM: They do but you have to be, you know, sensible in the kitchen.
MR: Being sensible in the kitchen can be back to basics and we have a great back to basics question from Rowena here. “Was Delia right about starting with back to basics …” like boiling an egg, you may have seen the controversy over that, “… so that we equip our kids with the life skills that are going to stay with them for the whole of their lives?”
AM: Mm, yes, I think they do. I mean, part of the research done by Sainsbury’s was, you know, looking at how we were eating twenty years ago and what we’d learned and a third of us still make what we were taught, you know, as youngsters.
MR: I make a mean casserole that my mum taught me.
AM: Exactly, so we do retain that information. So I think back to … I mean, I think Delia had a good point about teaching us how to boil an egg. Yes, we laughed and scoffed and said, ‘Of course I know that’ but I know so many people who burn boiled eggs and you think, ‘How did you do that?’
MR: The fact that she showed us three different ways, two of which I didn’t know, I thought that was quite impressive.
AM: (Laughter). I think it’s always important to educate yourself about the basics. You know, these kids are going to grow up; they’re going to go to university, let’s say or start a family of their own. You don’t want them to turn around and go, ‘I haven’t got a clue. What do I do now?’
MR: Now, we’re not just talking about eating at home. Kids, of course, eat in other places. They eat at school. We’ve got a great question in from Naomi, who says, “I make my kids their own packed lunches every single day to get them into the habit of eating healthily.” The issue, and it’s a big issue with lots of parents, is stopping them stuffing their bags with crisps and chocolate. Any advice?
AM: Yeah, absolutely, I mean my daughter and I, we make her sandwiches every day and it’s very balanced, it’s all the right things and I think that’s down to schools and how they educate kids. In her school they’ve introduced water. They like kids to have … they have water fountains everywhere. They’ve introduced free fruit and they’ve banned crisps.
MR: Well, when I was at school there weren’t any vending machine with fizzy drinks in them or whatever. There were only water fountains, so we’re taking a step back to maybe back to basics in that direction as well.
AM: yeah, I know but I think parents also need help from schools. You know we’re getting help from supermarkets as to what’s nutritionally balanced but also schools need to think about how much they’re offering junk food to kids because there’s also research that shows, you know, if kids have too much sugar it affects their behaviour. So schools need to think about that in terms of what they’re … what’s on offer for children.
MR: And parents can help, I mean for instance, these range of kids drinks have no added sugar and that’s particularly good so it’s only the natural sugar from the fruit juice that’s in them.
AM: Exactly, exactly, yeah.
MR: Things that you might want to think about for packed lunches as well, these little cereal bars can be quite good too and of course, what we were talking about with packaging, on the main packet of it you get all the packaging nutritional information. That’s got to be a good thing.
AM: Exactly, no, I think that’s useful.
MR: We’ve got some other bits and bobs here. I wouldn’t have thought about necessarily bagels but that’s quite a good idea for a lunch box, isn’t it.
AM: And aren’t they exciting in terms of size.
AM: These are child size and I think it’s great to road test food like that and kids can, you know, you can slice them up for them and they can butter them and put them in their own lunch box and feel like, ‘I’ve really accomplished that’ and ‘I can hold it in my hand’ so I think that’s very exciting. It’s got the simple carbohydrates in, it’s manageable and kids can take it to school with them.
MR: Absolutely, well I’ve got a question from Stella in now. Stella, thanks indeed for your question. “I can’t control what my three children eat”, she says. I think a lot of people have been there, Stella. “They’re all under ten and they just help themselves to what’s in the fridge and the cupboards when they’re hungry”. That presumably, is not the best situation to be in.
AM: I’m thinking, ‘What’s in the cupboards?’ because you can control what you put in the cupboards and I think if you have cupboards overflowing with crisps and junk food and kids are helping themselves then you have got some responsibility as to what you’re putting in there. Now you can’t stop kids having the odd ice cream with a packet of crisps, it’s what they eat most of the time and this is where parents really have to take responsibility. If I’m eating crisps I’m not going to stop my daughter eating crisps because that’s what mummy’s doing.
AM: And if I’m buying lots of packets of junk food and having them in the house, of course she’s going to help herself so you’ve got to vary what’s in your cupboards. It’s got to have a variety of healthy foods and they’ll pick on that.
MR: Is there a way, and you’re the psychologist so you’ll probably know the answer to this one, is there a way of teaching them that they shouldn’t go just into the larder by themselves?
AM: You know, I think if you’ve got good food in the larder then you’re not going to have a problem with them going in there and picking out the healthy options but I think you know, don’t ban them from the larder, knowing full well there’s loads of goodies, that they think are delicious, in there. So if you stock up your larder with healthy options what’s the problem with them going in there and helping themselves?
MR: Is it about the whole nutritional message of ‘Don’t eat between meals’ as well, that kind of thing?
AM: I mean, some kids want to eat between meals but it’s what they’re eating in between meals that matters, if they’re having a banana, fantastic. If they’re having six packets of crisps you’ve got a problem.
MR: Yes you have. Ellen wants to know, “What fun toppings can my kids put on home made pizzas that are healthy and look appealing?” Well this is all about the look and everything.
MR: I mean there’s a whole range of things that you can do.
AM: All kinds of things.
MR: I’ve had grapes on pizzas before now.
AM: You can have anything you like, anything that you find delicious. Like I said, I’m not a chef but, you know, with my daughter, she likes cheese, she likes tomatoes, she likes tuna. So we tried all of those toppings and they all worked for her. So it depends what your kids like. Ask them, ‘What do you like? What do you like?’
MR: What a great idea. Just get them … and that goes back to getting them involved the whole time and if they’re involved with what they’re eating they’re far more likely to actually eat it.
AM: Absolutely. Exactly, yes.
MR: Well, we’re nearly out of time but we do have a final question from Alysa. She wants to know, “What works for me …” she says, “ … is getting the kids involved in drawing up the shopping list so that they choose the meals, list the ingredients, so that they feel involved from the planning stage, through the shopping, through into the cooking.” That’s a great idea, isn’t it.
AM: Fantastic, it’s brilliant, isn’t it! Because they feel they’ve got some control, they feel that they’ve accomplished something, they’ve got some level of responsibility and it’s ‘I did that’ and kids like that feeling. It’s very positive behaviour.
MR: Excellent stuff, and of course, any top tips on getting started. You know, the whole first thing, when you’re child was first in the kitchen? How … what was the first thing? How do you get them excited?
AM: Well she started off in the kitchen in her high chair, watching me in the kitchen. So it was just simply from watching to sitting on the work surface, you know, coming a little bit closer, handling food. Often we don’t let children handle food, as if it’s something really bad. They get used to textures, that’s how they learn. So the more you can do that and let them actually explore the food, the more they’ll be interested in it.
MR: Certainly will. I’m afraid we haven’t got time for any more questions. Thank you for sending them in. We haven’t managed to get to them all so apologies for that but thank you so much for joining in. Angela Matanda, thank you for joining us.
AM: Thank you.
MR: For more information, I guess we can go to the Sainsbury’s website.
AM: We can, that’s www.sainsbury’s.co.uk.
MR: And of course there’s a link at the bottom of the page and we’ll see you very soon for another web chat.