Tag Archive | food

Where does meat come in your children’s education!

I was already aware that eating meat is having a detrimental impact on the health of the planet.

But I was totally uneducated as to why or the scale of it until I saw this programme: ‘Meat: A Threat To Our Planet?’ on BBC1.

Read the review in inews

This amazing and disturbing programme has put me right and probably should be part of everyone’s education. Well worth a watch.

We know our eating habits have a huge impact on our individual health. But perhaps we’ve all been less aware how those habits impact on our planetary health and our CHILDREN’S FUTURE because of it.

Encouraging the youngsters to learn about and know themselves should be part of any education and understanding where their food comes from and how it affects them is part of this. This is the only way they – and you – can make informed choices about enjoying food and nutrition in ways that are SUSTAINABLE and of least threat to the planet, as all of our lifestyle habits need to be. So help them learn what this really means.

After all, it is the children who will be living on it when we are gone. So it is nothing less than our duty to establish habits and understanding as families now, that protect the planet from growing threats. There cannot surely be any part of education more important than how to sustain life; theirs, all others, and the planet on which they all depend.

We’re all making important changes, like reducing our use of plastic for example, but this is a change that receives less coverage and the programme helps us see other valuable changes we can make to help keep the planet going for our children.


Are you neglecting part of your child’s education?

We love our kids. We lavish care and attention on them, buy them treats, take them places, see to their education and welfare. That’s our responsibility as parents.

So if we’re taking that responsibility seriously, why then is obesity becoming an epidemic?

I know that’s a sensitive and contentious question. No one wants to point the blame at anyone. Parents have enough of that.

But I look at it this way; we would consider it total neglect if we did not educate our kids in the skills of reading and maths for example. Yet we don’t see it as neglect when we fail to educate them in the skills of maintaining a healthy weight, and teach them through our own demonstration.

I’m raising this issue after watching this shocking report on Inside Out East about Type 2 Diabetes and how, in many cases, it leads to surgery which could have been preventable. It’s here:


It’s a subject that has had much coverage around the news to raise awareness of this growing problem. (Read more here)

I also live in one of the poorer areas like those in the programme where there are almost more people who are obese than otherwise, and I can see the size of the problem, if you’ll forgive the pun.

When you are surrounded by people who are all similar to you, you begin to see this as the norm; it becomes a cultural norm, you begin to think it doesn’t matter as everyone seems to be overweight – it must be okay. And it’s all too easy to over indulge when fast food, buns, cakes, chips and chocolate leap out and tempt you at every turn. I should know; I have a dangerously sweet tooth that’s very difficult to manage!

But it does matter and when it comes to causing harm to our kids no one can take the responsibility other than ourselves as parents and mentors. I agree that companies cash in on our weaknesses. But they can only do that if we comply; the ultimate responsibility lies with us.

According to the report people are having amputations that could have been prevented by taking some of that responsibility. Is that what we’re leading our kids towards too?

What’s it worth to develop a lifestyle that avoids such dire consequences?

Kids do what we do. Whilst they’re kids we have an opportunity to lay down some fundamental habits that set them up for life. You cannot control them forever. But you can give them a good start – you have, in this case, to practice what you preach. Be what you want them to become – that’s the most influential way. Words don’t work as well as actions.

The habits you cultivate in your family now are the ones that will impact on your children the most, whilst they are children. After that it’s up to them.

But habits of lifestyle and habits of learning are equally important subjects of an education. And are surely all part of the duty we share to facilitate a future for our kids that is happy, healthy and wise.

Sugar Rush

Heck – I’m shocked! I thought I ate healthily but now realise I’m consuming far too much sugar. 

It was watching Jamie Oliver’s programme Sugar Rush that shocked me into looking at my planned consumption for today.

I’d perhaps start with muesli and granola which I know contains some sugar but I was unaware of how much, especially in relation to the amount recommended we should have – no more than four teaspoons per day. It would be easy with some cereals to eat more than that in one meal! I need to re-plan.

If not salad, I might have a small sandwich or Peanut Butter on toast for lunch. Apparently, both that and the bread contain sugar. And I’d planned a vegetable curry for tonight to which I may add a little jar of Korma sauce but discovered that this too is loaded with sugar. And there was me thinking it was okay to have a Kit-Kat this afternoon because I hadn’t had any sugar today.

Think again!

I thought we ate fairly healthily in this house. But the programme has raised my awareness of the dangers of hidden sugars that we unwittingly eat, and that’s without having sugary fizzy drinks which are the worst offenders. However some ‘fruit juices’ and flavoured ‘water’ can be equally harmful if you consume a lot.

But the worst news of all is what hidden sugars are doing to the children.

We think as parents we’re doing our best by our kids encouraging a reasonable diet. But Jamie shows how these ‘hidden’ sugars are sneaking into what we thought would be healthy. And how they are damaging enough on our kids’ teeth and weight, even without giving them any added sugary treats in the form of sweets. So we need to be even more vigilant than we are.

But what is absolutely criminal is to be consciously giving them such a sugar full diet of junk food, sweets, cola and other soda drinks to the extent of what was illustrated in the programme.

Apparently one of the biggest demands for surgery on children is not the removal of tumours, organs or other consequences of terrible diseases, it is the preventable procedure required to pull out rotten teeth. How shocking is that?

And apparently there are more lower limbs removed from (mostly preventable) obesity people in later years, who have developed Type Two Diabetes from a sugar high diet, than there are from soldiers injured in combat and war.

It is a terrifying prospect. Jamie was shocked by what he found. I’m shocked.

You should watch the programme (on All4). It needs discussing with the family. And the family’s eating habits examining, plus an investigation into how much hidden sugar in processed, ready-made food you’re all eating; it’s part of their education. And the sugary drinks need keeping to a minimum and maybe some serious changes making.

Otherwise one of our family members could become one of those startling statistics.

It’s going to be quite a trial to keep my eye on what I’m eating during the day. But I am determined, for I want it to be the case that I choose when to have sugar and am not consuming it in total ignorance.

We all need to do the same both for ourselves and for our kids.

After watching Jamie’s report, how could we not?

Teach them everyday food habits

Isn’t food info confusing? You think you’re guiding the children towards a healthy habit of eating then new research comes along and challenges it and you find it’s not so healthy after all.

I watched the programme; ‘Trust me, I’m a doctor’ last night and discovered that several of the habits I thought were healthy turn out not to be!

One was the idea of using healthy oils, like sunflower or vegetable oils, to cook with as an alternative to the demonised butter. On the programme it showed that some of these oils. although okay in the cold state like perhaps in salad dressing, were quite unhealthy once cooked as the heating process released harmful substances.

The other surprise was to do with organic food. There is no doubt that growing organic food is far, far better for the environment. But tests they’d conducted for the programme showed that in view of our personal health, the fact that veg were organically grown or not made little difference.

One good piece of news for me was that the claims made about the health benefits of the extortionately priced Manuka honey were just a con. The cheap brands, which are all I can afford, were just as beneficial. Excellent – I always had my suspicions anyway, being aware of selling hype.

One of the benefits of having the children learning at home with you is that you can plan meals, talk about nutrition, shop for, cook and eat together and incorporate a healthy approach to food choices and eating into your everyday habits.

It is these lifestyle habits and routines established at home with you, in particular what and how you parents eat, that influences the children in the long run. Your attitudes inform theirs really. And learning how to feed themselves well is an essential aspect of education.

Okay so they might dodge into a fast food chain occasionally, especially when they’re teens, but we don’t have to be perfect. The best we can do is be conscious and educate them to be aware. To discuss, to develop healthy habits and to educate them to the idea that the fuel we put in our bodies affects not only our physical health, our heart and other organs, stamina and muscle tone, but also our mental and emotional health too. It’s worth being conscious of it.

Just as I am conscious that too much chocolate is bad for me, despite my desire for it. And I might even get around to trying the method they suggest in the programme to wean me from it!

That’s going to take one helluva lot of imagining…!

Winter wheat and the wonderful whirl of years and seasons

winter 2013 016It always gives me such joy to see the winter wheat come through.

Even though the worst of the weather may still be to come and those little shoots of green get burned by frost, buried under snow and grazed by huge flocks of wild geese stopping off for snacks on their long journeys, this battered crop will survive, green up again and become the majesty of cornfields we recognise in summer.

And it all started when the great machines ploughed and tilled down the soil through autumn, drilled the seeds and a little bit of mildness before Christmas brought up the shoots and made the earth green again ready for the new year’s crop.

What a wonderful cycle it is. How hopeful are these inevitable cycles that keep on coming round and bring us back to Spring and Summer. And how lucky are we to have this land and this climate to grow our food and the people prepared to work at it.

For most of them it’s not like the lovely ‘Adam’s Farm’ which we see on the Countryfile programme. Most of the people who work the land here are much smaller concerns, have a much harder time and get much less pay for their labours as they produce our food. Some don’t even make the breadline. Farming is not this romantic existence we see portrayed for the cameras for people in towns and cities. For most it is intense hardship and struggle to make the food we seem to think it is our right to buy cheaply from supermarkets. Those supermarkets who in turn pay farmers less than the amount it takes to put bread on their own tables. They rarely film those bits!

It’s a lesson for our kids. That they understand the food they eat doesn’t come from supermarkets, it comes from the land. And it is dependent on climate. Without a decent climate there’ll be no food. Which is why it’s important that they (well – everyone really) are careful with their waste and careful with their possessions because, if you think about it, the more possessions we have the more damage we do through industry to the climate, the earth and the sea that feeds us!

So next time you wander round the supermarket with your children just be aware that it is this beautiful earth that provides all the choice you have before you. And as your kids tuck into their bread, pasta or pizza some of it may even contain the little shoots of green corn I saw battling up from the earth this time last year.

And here’s this year’s new crop already on its way. What a reassuring and hopeful sight at the start of this new January.

Happy New Year!

Are we injuring our kids with food?

“It’s alright for you, look at you, you don’t have to bother about your weight!”

If there was one thing that makes me seethe it’s comments like this. For don’t we pretty much all have to bother about our weight? And isn’t it because we do bother that we remain a healthy size? And isn’t it also about demonstrating to our kids habits about food and health and how to balance our desire to indulge with longer term effects?

Despite the fish and chips which we indulged in occasionally, for most of the time we ate a well balanced, nutritious diet with lots of fruit and vegetables when the kids were at home. We promoted these foods to the kids as the ultimate. Because meals and nutrition is as big a part education as anything academic.

Meals mean health – as well as pleasure. I could no more offer them crap food all the time than offer them cigarettes. And as they got older they took responsibility for their food, their health and their weight, seeing it as important part of living independently, balancing that with the social and commercial lure of using McDonalds occasionally! As well as a love of chocolate (my failing – I own up to it)!

But surely it is part of all parent’s responsibilities to educate their kids in food wisdom. Yet it looks like it’s something else that schools are now having to take over as so many parents fall down in the simple act of teaching their kids about how to live healthily with food.

Heads are being urged to ban packed lunches in schools in order to provide healthy meals for kids. (See the BBC website here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-23270715

It’s not that difficult to live healthily with food. But it does take parental action – and maybe change if we’re not doing so already. For example we’d take action if our kid was about to be injured by a massive bus coming their way. We also need to take action if our kids about to be injured by obesity or poor diet– and it is injurious in terms of our inner organs, long term health, mental well being and overall happiness. Overeating affects our brains and our moods too.

We don’t have to be obsessive about it. We had treats – cake for one! And we certainly shouldn’t be obsessed with size or scales. Instead, it needs to be an all round approach to our entire well being. We eat healthy food because it keeps us healthy. It’s enjoyable. It looks fantastic with the wonderful range of colours compared to the colourless slop you get in KFC and there is an enormous range of tastes and textures.

Think about it: if we put sugar in the petrol tank the engine of our car would be faulty and cease to run. If we put crap in our own systems we get ill and eventually cease to run! Kids understand that kind of simple comparison as an example.

They also need to understand several very important things about the food they eat:

–          Variety is important to cover the nutritional content we need

–          We need to eat food that’s as close to its original state as possible

–          We need to eat a wide range of colours

–          We need to eat a wide range of flavours

–          We need to eat a wide range of textures

–         We need to eat from all the main food groups

–          We need to experiment, keep trying things even if we don’t like them at first

Food has a dramatic effect on us. Being healthy makes us feel good, makes us look good; skin, eyes, hair, strength, fitness and thus shape. And that’s the only relevance we need to make to size. Being healthy means we need to balance what we do with what we eat and thus manage our weight – because a healthy body is not an obese one – it’s nothing to do with being skinny or upholding revolting pressure on youngsters to look like models.

It is about educating youngsters to understand the food/wellbeing relationship and how to work it best to their advantage. And it is every parent’s responsibility to the care of their kids. But it looks like schools are trying to pick up the shortfall.

I actually hate the idea of schools now even dictating what the children eat. It sounds a bit controlling to me. But who am I to talk. I had the desire to control what my kids ate and got over my loathing of cooking and preparing food to do it! It was either that or risk poisoning my kids with stuff that had dubious origins.

But if parents are failing in that responsibility, how else do we educate kids to manage their food rather than have food manage them?

Food For Thought – Save The Children

I just had a piece of toast! It’s going to affect the way I think this afternoon.

Think I’m joking? Not at all. The way we feed ourselves changes the way we are. If I haven’t had breakfast I’m a right moody cow. Get a bit of carbohydrate down and the day looks suddenly brighter!

It also affects our kids. We’ve all seen how they crank up a gear after they’ve been fed and how sulky they can be before dinner! We’ve also read about how junk food affects the way children behave. But did we ever think about the fact that because food so affects behaviour it’s also going to affect the way your children learn.

What’s even worse is the fact that lack of good nutrition – or lack of food at all – affects performance academically. And malnutrition in the years even before school affects a child ever after.

I’m saying all this because a quarter of the world’s children are severely malnourished and this affects how they learn and consequently how they earn. Save The Children are appealing for help to tell the world about it. http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/

You can help by visiting their site and supporting their campaign.

Meanwhile closer to home, check out how you feed your children. Know that whatever you feed them affects how they grow, how they learn and how they educate their own children to eat…and so on. They are also completely guided by your behaviour around food, your response to it and the things you are eating! Your responsibility as a parent is to learn about good nutrition and pass it on to them.

A good place to start is here http://www.nhs.uk/Change4Life/Pages/healthy-eating.aspx

And some things for your kids to do can be found here http://www.familylearning.org.uk/balanced_diet.html

I’m off for a cup of tea – it’s more healthy than you think! http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/5281046.stm

Food for thought and thought for food!

Nothing delights me more than wild food.

Earlier in the autumn when I was out walking I found lots of field mushrooms. One of the advantages of not having the home schooled kids in the house any more is that we can eat as much as we want of the foods they didn’t like – mushrooms being one of them.

But they did enjoy other things we found; blackberries, apples from rogue trees in the hedgerows, and the odd broccoli dropped on the lane from a passing tractor. Okay – not strictly wild but still edible.

I am very lucky to have these bounties on my doorstep. They were a great way of educating the kids on the subject of food. For it is such an important subject. Both for their own well being and that of the planet.

But you don’t need to live where I do to help them understand that. You just need to bring awareness to what you’re eating. And maybe even learn together if your eating habits are something you’d like to make changes to.

Here are some ideas you could try, (which incidentally cover many of the topics on the National Curriculum!):

–          Involve your kids in planning and preparing their food. http://www.cbeebies.com/za/grown-ups/children-love-to-cook/

–          Learn about food groups and see each day how what you’ve planned or are eating fits into them. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/Healthyeating.aspx

–          Eat foods that have as many ingredients as possible in their natural state, or discuss how the food you eat started out in life so they know its origins. http://www.foodinsight.org/understandingourfood.aspx

–          Think about some foods you and the children could grow together. You don’t need a garden or anything posh from a garden centre, any old container will do. Or look for ready prepped packs if you’re not confident. http://www.kidsinthegarden.co.uk/

–          We all reach for the convenience of ready-made food. But these can still be talking points if you discuss the ingredients, sources, location of sources, etc. http://www.climatechoices.org.uk/pages/food1.htm http://tiki.oneworld.net/food/food2.html

–          Understanding how food is produced is important for understanding the needs of the planet, how best to preserve it and to avoid polluting it and other ecological issues. http://www.climatechoices.org.uk/pages/food4.htm

–          Which is a good way to introduce your kids to the idea of waste; both needless food waste and waste produced from unnecessary packaging. http://england.lovefoodhatewaste.com/

What we eat has a huge impact on our health and well being; physically, spiritually and mentally, so it is mega important subject for the children to understand.

But on the subject of well being, please don’t eat any mushrooms you find unless you are absolutely sure you know what they are!

Do your kids know where your next loaf’s coming from?

 Isolated? Quiet in the country? No.

I was gardening to the sound of engines this weekend. And a billow of golden dust on the washing. Even as late as September the combine harvesters are going. It’s been a nightmare year for most farmers, the oddness of the climate affecting nearly every crop.

Some people like to think the farmers are just moaning again. But believe me, I live in a crop growing area and they’re not. And for most of them farming is nothing like the rosy picture portrayed on Adam’s Farm in Countryfile on the BBC.

For many this dreadful crop year will be the end of their livelihoods, the end of their lives as they know it and goodbye to farms which have been handed down through generations. It’s incredibly tough. That’s why there’s such a high incidence of suicides among farmers.

Most people don’t ever think about farmers at all as long as their food is in supermarkets. The land, and the people who work it, their hard work, never enters their head. Here though, it’s in my head all the time; food growing governs the nature of this environment and was a huge part of our educational activities when we were home educating. Sometimes we could see our food from plant to land to cooking to table – and what is more important a lesson than that. A lesson about how our lives our sustained and how dependent upon the earth and the workers we are to sustain it.

Wherever you live I think it’s essential to teach kids that lesson – that respect. Even if you can’t show children how it’s grown, showing them food in its natural state is a starting point, discussing how it ALL has to be grown – even the ingredients of a McDonalds – the meat too! Somebody labours over it. And how it is thanks to the earth that we have it.

If the kids don’t know that, how will they know that they need to respect the earth? That the earth matters? It is as vitally important as what they do with their waste, our needless consumerism, the climate. As is the plight of the farmer who has toiled this weekend, even through the night, to harvest the grain which even if indirectly puts food in our baskets.

But do you know what?  While he’s been doing that he’ll probably not make sufficient income from this year’s meagre crop to put food in his own.

Worth thinking about that! Our children need to know.