Professor Clare Collins has a vision – seeing more families gathered around a dinner table digging into a home cooked meal with more vegetables. But first we have to ditch the idea that kids won’t eat the green stuff.
“There’s a pervasive attitude that says ‘why give kids vegetables when everyone knows they don’t like them?’ If you want evidence of how sticky this belief is, look no further than children’s menus – you’ll see nuggets and hot chips but not peas or pumpkin,” says Collins, Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Newcastle. “Yet vegetables are one of the secret weapons for maintaining a healthy weight because they can replace high kilojoule fatty ingredients and add bulk. The bottom line is a bigger serve with fewer kilojoules.”
Collins believes many families need support to put a dinner that includes vegetables back on the dining table – that’s why she and her colleagues from the University’s School of Health Sciences have developed a new after school cooking club for children of primary school age. Called the Back to Basics Healthy Lifestyle Program, it involves five after school sessions that teach children to make simple meals and snacks with vegetables like crostini, stir fries and pizza. The children graduate with basic cooking skills, a good knowledge of kitchen hygiene and familiarity with healthy foods. Parents join in during the final half hour of each session to share the food the children have cooked.