In my early days of being a Mum and studying nutrition, I was a purist…everything was homemade from scratch, every food that touched my children’s lips was lovingly yet painstakingly prepared by yours truly.
I was working part-time, studying part-time and mothering fulltime but that did not stand in the way of hours upon hours in the kitchen.
Even before kindy, I felt as though I was swimming against the tide – mother’s group coffee catchups, Friday afternoon plays in the park and birthday parties were my nightmare. My deprived children making the most of the other kids’ “bought” food…returning home with a sugar high. Then I graduated to being a Kindy Mum, on roster once every term to help with the kids. It was here I was truly in shock at children’s lunchboxes.
Fast forward a few years, degree completed, and many, many conversations with parents (and non-parents), most of whom truly believed the foods they ate and gave to their children were healthy, or they knew it wasn’t but did not believe that food made that much difference to health anyway. Not everyone of course, but as a purist, I couldn’t understand how anyone could fail to see what I could see.
What could I do to change their view? I could see that my generation of parents tend to do what our children want, so my solution was to go to the children and explain what healthy eating is. I went into my children’s classrooms where the teachers were open to the idea of healthy eating, and yes, it was fun but as a purist, it didn’t go far enough. I decided I needed to teach them HOW to cook – their parents were too busy to do this, did not know how to cook themselves or did not see it as a priority for the family.
I tried to get state government funding for my program, but I was told they were already doing it. Nobody was doing what I was planning. So, with the help of someone who believed in what I wanted to do, I set up paid after school cooking classes. I started with four children and now I have 12 and a waiting list. We have fun turning unhealthy favourites into healthy ones; and I watch children who say they do not like vegetables, eat a plate full of them and tell me they are delicious. I have even heard from some parents that their child is always in the kitchen or the family has started eating more vegetables. These stories are my reason d’etre. If my classes can change one child or one family or one parent, I am happy.
By the way, I’m no longer a purist and I no longer ask myself why people can’t see things my way. Some things just are, there is no reason. We are all on a journey.
By Toni Chambers | Clinical nutritionist; Clinical Support Manager for Bio Concepts