Teaching school staff more about food, health and nutrition
Yesterday's training session started off in Wagamamas. In the past we've even organised school trips to take part in workshops here. On one occasion a year 7 group took part in circuit of food activity; smoothie making, tasting sauces and weighing ingredients for a noodle soup.
We consider this to be an example of fast food using fresh and whole ingredients to make filling and nutritious meals. The noodle soup combines wholewheat noodles, a variety of veg, tofu as a protein source for vegetarians and a variety of lean meat and fish options for non-veggies.
Supermarket Shop Tour
Following lunch we went to Tesco for a supermarket shop tour. We used the FSA's card to understand the eight steps to healthy living. We also used the opportunity to discuss glycemic index, saturated fats, trans fats, salt content and wholegrains.
A supermarket tour activity prompts questioning: Which are the healthiest breakfast cereals? What's the difference between extra virgin and virgin olive oil? Are vegetable oils saturated? Are their healthy snacks? Which drinks contain fruit? What can vegetarians eat for essential fats? How much salt in a packet of crisps? What about alcohol?
We also resolve confusing messages especially in relation to front of pack labelling. It is interesting that the food industry lobbied against the use of the traffic light system and in place supermarkets are using their own versions. From our experience it is clear that consumers are still confused! Tesco appear to use varying shades of green, orange...actually more like a peachy colour on the cakes or is that the food manufacturer?
Natural flavours, no added preservatives, source of calcim and vitamin D, ideal for lunchboxes, no colourings, low sugar. What products are we talking about?
Staff purchased products that are being promoted to young people for healthy eating activities. This included coca-cola (currently an Olympic 2012 sponsor), haribos, yoplait choobs, fruit shoots, dairylea dunkers and a mars twin-pack promoting official England special edition t-shirts. They pointed out the 'health messages' highlighted above and incentives targeting young people including sports sponsorship and cartoon characters.
How much sugar, salt and fat in that?
Back in the training room, staff weighed out the sugar and recorded this as number of teaspoons per typical portion. Oh..this is also so much fun to do with popular breakfast cereals.
Diet and disease
Training continued into the afternoon and even included a short biochemistry session in response to questions about healthy and unhealthy fats. We feel it is important to explain how diet is specifically linked to heart disease, obesity and diabetes type II.
Participants were also asked to consider the groups they are working with. Although the Eatwell plate mat is a common activity, it is worth using images of foods that the audience can relate to. Here Tower Hamlets PCT has adapted the Eatwell Plate for the South Asian community and the protein section includes a range of pulses and different fish.
Although it is sometimes difficult to explain the science to individuals who don't have a science background, we feel that it is an important part of nutrition education. When we checked learning, staff understood concepts such as insulin resistance and how the structure of fat molecules varies and this in turn makes them 'healthy' or 'unhealthy'. It is also worth having a a conversation about epidemiological studies, what lower and upper limits actually mean and what the scientific community aren't too sure about.
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