Out of curiosity this afternoon after the children had yet another ‘fish finger sandwich’ lunch, I looked into childhood obesity. I was stunned to read that 1 in 4 Australian children (25%) are overweight or obese (aihw.gov.au), and in the UK today nearly a third of children aged 2 to 15 are overweight or obese (gov.uk). Yes, I double checked, and looked again! It’s remarkable that in a world so set on slamming parents for feeding their children something that wasn’t sugar free, or god forbid non organic, that we have come to this. Our children are getting fatter by the minute, and their teeth are rotting faster than a corpse in the Sahara desert.
Excuse me for thinking that this is possibly down to the plethora of “advice” coming at us from every which way. As soon as you pop out your first born, you are bombarded with horrifying stories of allergies, and incidents. Tales of someone’s uncle’s, cousins, wife who weaned her baby too early and now has an elephant for a kid who has thirty-seven allergies and an epi pen sticky taped to his forehead.
You can’t eat this if you’re breast feeding, you shouldn’t buy that when you’re weaning, you must NEVER EVER let your toddler drink apple juice! It goes on and on and on. Even when your children start school and you’re miserably making packed lunches, you pray that Justin’s mum isn’t on lunch duty; what if she sees that your carrots aren’t organic and you’ve not made your own hummus, (shop bought is a no no these days), oh and you’ve slipped in a KitKat because you’d run out of bread.
We’re bombarded with messages that ring in our heads like Big Ben at midnight; ‘a healthy outside starts on the inside’; ‘Be smart, Eat smart.’ We’re forced to watch grown men, dressed like broccoli shouting slogans at us from the TV, like “I’m always in the mood to eat healthy food”. Oh get lost Broccoli Ben and pass me granny’s homemade death by chocolate.
Why oh why are we constantly ambushed with all these highly patronising bits of ‘advice’ from companies who are blatantly poisoning us from behind their “eat healthy” message?
As an easily persuaded mum of two, I have become a dab hand at creating so called ‘healthy’ meals that the dustbin enjoys, whilst the children gorge on three-day old banana custard and toast with lashings of butter. After a twenty-minute battle with my 4-year-old to finish his rainbow chard with smashed chickpeas, I promised myself I would stop insisting on following the trends, do my best and that’s it.
I watched on as Monty urged and gagged over the loo, and thought, that’s it, I’m not going to give in to the demands of “super mum” or “green granny” or even the yummy mummy’s at the school gate. I’m making a stand. I’m not prepared to spend endless hours blending, chopping and mashing a daily rainbow of vegetables, making animal faces out of grains or turning meals into murals, so as they can be thrown in the bin or regurgitated down the loo. I’m going back to the old me, pre kids, where I cooked and ate what I really enjoyed, the meals I remember from my childhood. I was healthy and had a varied diet, full of the nutrients I needed. Unlike now, 8 years’ post-partum where I am seriously lacking vitamin D, my iron levels are beyond a joke, I’ve got acne and my stress levels are through the roof. I blame all of this on one thing. The ‘Critical Crew’, the “Quinoa Queens” and the “Soya Sisters”. The mums who positively shudder when you say the kids had egg on toast for dinner. “What? Gluten? Excuse me? No greens?’
I’m not sorry that my children don’t like parsnip and harissa fritters with a sprout and avocado dressing. They don’t like spaghetti hoops from a tin for goodness sake. There is no way I could get either of my children to gobble up a salmon fillet with a smile on their face, even if it had been submerged in Nutella first. I’m fed up of creating names for meals that omit the “yukky” ingredient; I’m not calling Calamari ‘Spanish chips’ anymore!
This year I will be making lasagne as I love it, with pasta (full of gluten), rich red wine infused beef, and a mountain of crispy cheese of the dairy variety on top! I’ll be making stir-fry’s, bangers and mash with veggies and lashings of gravy, chicken pies, homemade curry with rice, cakes, stews, Sunday roasts, cooked breakfasts, bubble and squeak!! I won’t be cutting out this, substituting that, or limiting anything. I won’t need to. I’ll be cooking like my mum and dad did, and their parents did before that. I’ll be cooking healthy family meals, with no one sitting on my shoulder ‘advising’ me on how to add lentils to my already brilliant shepherd’s pie or make my morning porridge using Quinoa because oats are from the devil. The statistics speak for themselves; parents just don’t need so much input when it comes to feeding their children. It’s overwhelming, confusing, and mostly downright unhelpful; resulting in our bins getting full and our kids get fat.
Family chefs, be true to yourself, you know what’s right, you know what’s good, you know your children. Don’t let our little ones become confused about food and health and therefore miss out on the enchantment of sitting at the table with loved ones. If we don’t teach them that wherever we are in our lives, the family dinner table is the most wonderful place to share time, no one else will.
Don’t let anyone tell you anything different. Here’s to the true home cook’s revolution.
Join me in using the #homecooksrevolution