Last week around 250 children and their parents took part in our healthy eating workshops at a primary school in Sutton Coldfield. The deputy head, Nicola Arkinstall, organised a comprehensive programme of activity for 'health week' and we were pleased that parents were also invited to participate.
Our workshops include a number of activities and healthier food tasters. It was interesting to see that parents no longer seem to be surprised that there are 7 teaspoons of sugar in Coca Cola or that popular children's breakfast cereals are also high in sugar. I'm sure that this is because similar facts are presented in the popular press. For example, a review of a book about diabetes in the Times last Saturday also included an image of the hidden sugar in a variety of popular products. McDonalds medium strawberry milkshake...20.6 teaspoons, Galaxy chocolate bar...5.1 teaspoons & Tropicana orange juice...4 teaspoons.
However, the kind activities included in our workshops do stimulate questions, lead to interesting discussions and also provide an opportunity to resolve any confusion. Following the sugar activity for example, parents asked; 'Do carbohydrates contain sugar?', 'What about the sugar in fruit?' , 'Is it better to have sugar free drinks?', 'Is honey better than sugar?' We went on to describe how insulin resistance and diabetes may develop.
Remember to check the label when you walk through the supermarkets. Especially when packaging has been designed for children and even when it incorporates healthy messaging such as 'no artificial flavours', 'high in calcium and vitamin D' or 'ideal for lunchboxes'...the primary ingredient may still be sugar.
Encouraging positive food choices
I think the key to a successful workshop is the inclusion of healthier food tasters and cookery demonstrations. I was pleased to see that the children of all ages (nursery, reception and primary age) were willing to try the samples on offer. It is important for parents to see this also and especially that their children enjoy healthy, tasty, nourishing food.
Sugar from sugar cane
That's my Aunt on the left preparing take-home packs of 'Jaggery' for my younger sister and a friend. Jaggery is the natural form of sugar obtained from the cane (in this pic from our family farm in India). It can be used as a minor ingredient in both savoury and sweet dishes.
The sugar we purchase from supermarkets is refined and some argue that any nutritional value that 'jaggery' may have is lost. I'm not sure about the process of refining sugar but products that highlight sugar as a main ingredient typically use refined sugar.
It's definitely useful to understand where food comes from and how it is used. We use resources designed for children that incorporate this kind of learning also.
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