As a Home Economics Teacher I have a vested interest in food education, teaching the next generation practical food skills, about healthy but tasty food choices, sustainability and seasonality, preventing food waste, food sovereignty, supporting local food businesses and Fairtrade suppliers, the benefits of growing your own food and ethical and environmental food choices. That’s why I am a big fan of the ‘Eat Better Feel Better’ website funded by the Scottish Government and I want to tell you why you should be too.
The Hard Facts
It’s not nice to hear, but Scotland we have a problem! Now I’m not going to pretend that I am an angel when it comes to food, I like to indulge in tasty food that can be high in calories, salt, fat and sugar, but it’s all about balance and portion control and there’s no way I could indulge everyday. On the whole I make the effort to eat pretty healthily because I want to make sure I don’t get tooth decay, become overweight or struggle with dietary related diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, constipation or depression. However, with takeaway food at our fingertips with new apps and deals flashing up on our smart phones and our children’s smart phones, it can make it hard to resist the temptation. Recent reports have uncovered that approx 23% of primary 1 children are at risk of becoming obese, with those living in low income families more likely to be at risk which is totally unfair and shouldn’t be the case. See The Telegraph article for more information on this, but you just have to google obesity in Scotland and there’s lots of media surrounding it because it’s an increasing problem. Just look what this statistic is doing to us, we are losing our beloved Irn Bru recipe because of our recklessness and inability to stop ourselves from making regular unhealthy decisions as a nation! On a serious note though, The association that high calorie food is cheaper than healthy (but tasty) food, is a myth. All you need is willpower and some basic cookery skills and you can break these bad habits. Food spending and food waste are also hot topics. It is estimated that 380,000 tonnes of food and drink is wasted every year which doesn’t have to be, costing the Scottish public an estimated £1 billion every year – Greener Scotland . The ‘Eat Better Feel Better’ website is a great place to start to help you cut the cost of your food spending, minimise the food you throw away and help you to start cooking healthy, tasty meals and snacks with your children or for yourself.
Their meal planning resource allows you to find recipes by searching ingredients which is great if you have, for example, some leftover vegetables in the fridge and you’re wanting to use them up in a convenient, easy to follow recipe. Or it allows you to plan recipes around ingredients that you’re buying to minimise waste, i.e. you can see in my meal planner for the week that I’m planning on making a big pot of butternut squash soup that will do me for lunch for a few days and the rest I can freeze in tupperware boxes. I’ve selected a couple of recipes with eggs and tomatoes so that I’m likely to use them all up before their best before date which is more cost effective too, as you’re not having to buy lots of ingredients in your weekly shop.
The meal planner allows you to see how much you’re spending on average per day on the meals you are choosing to eat. If you click to view the recipe it delves further into the nutritional value of the meal – its energy, fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt. It can be quite overwhelming seeing these figures and trying to understand them. These are things I take for granted as a teacher of nutrition, but the red, amber, green traffic light symbols, show you at a glance which foods are high in something and which foods are low. For example, with the above recipe, we can see that the dish is low in saturates, sugar and salt but overall fat is on the medium scale. Saturates refer to saturated fat (bad fat), unsaturated fat (good fats), actually prevent high cholesterol and heart disease so you’d rather that Fat overall is higher than the ‘saturates’ which is normally linked to animal fat. Women should be eating an average of 2000 calories (kcals) per day, whilst men should have on average 2500 calories (kcals), of course some people for medical or fitness reasons, require more or less. Check out the Scottish Dietary Goals, The Eatwell Guide, Using Traffic Lights and the NHS Choices website for some light but informative reading on the matter. Whether the dish is suitable for vegetarians, how many people it serves, the time it takes to prepare and the average cost of that recipe, are all detailed on each recipe.
It makes me immensely proud as a food teacher and recipe writer myself, to see ‘real’ Scottish people sharing their tried and tested recipes with others across the nation. The cookbook is a reminder that as a community and as a nation we need to look out for each other’s health and well-being, and what better way to do that than by fuss-free, healthy, yummy offerings of food? I love the photos of the Scottish recipe contributors on each page of the recipe book and not only that, some of the recipes are featured in videos, so you can easily learn by observing the cookery magic happening. Check out how to make ‘Harvest Vegetable Soup’ with Trish from Glasgow right here. You can definitely get the kids involved in cooking from a young age, that way you’re likely to instil a passion for healthy food for life. Slip on some aprons and even in this recipe where there’s a lot of chopping involved, if you’re nervous about them using knives, they can be your little helper, transferring the vegetables from your chopping board into the soup pot. If you start them young, you’re more likely to have them helping you and interested in cooking right into their teenager years and adult life.
Maybe you tell yourself ‘I can’t cook,’ well I’m here to tell you that that’s not true! From the amount of young people that I’ve taught how to cook in 5 years of teaching, everyone of them could cook. Agreed, they may not be the quickest or the neatest when finely chopping vegetables, but that doesn’t matter, each and every one of them had the ability to prepare themselves nutritious, tasty meals in a short timescale and you can too, it’s just practice. The ‘What’s on in your area’ section of the website allows you to search your local area for practical cookery classes, advice on buying healthy food and healthy eating. Also, check with your local high school’s Home Economics department, some teachers may offer an after school cookery club for parents and/or children. I know it’s something I’m planning to do in my new school.
Money Saving & Fussy Eaters
The website has a fantastic section about current supermarket offers supplied by the major supermarkets and money tips for making your money go further when you shop. I know for me, even including a ‘meat free’ day of the week saves on my food budget as meat is expensive so I’ll have for example a vegetarian pesto pasta instead of spaghetti bolognaise. It can be difficult contending with fussy eaters in your household so trying things like the ‘pea game’ or setting up a ‘food lab’ by downloading the resource on the Eat Better Feel Better website, may really help in getting your wee ones to try new things. The food lab is a lot like sensory evaluation, which is something Scottish school students learn about in Home Economics when trying and tasting new food products and in my experience they love it!
Another great section of the website is the ‘sugar swaps’ tab which shows you practical ways to minimise sugar in your child’s diet and is something you can take on board too. I’m not saying that these habits can be broken overnight but it’s just a matter of getting used to the swaps and overtime you can begin to see some real changes in you and your children’s sugar consumption.
Eat Better Feel Better have produced a fun quiz for you to take with the chance of winning £100 in Asda vouchers which is the perfect excuse to start putting Eat Better Feel Better’s tips and recipes into practice, go on give it a try here and best of luck making these changes for a healthier and happier you.