The “It’s Your Life!” Show – Growing Up!

After a lifetime in nursing and five and a half years as a Clinical Nutritionist, I had an idea – a good one! The “It’s Your Life!” natural health show opened its doors at Rivermead Leisure Complex in Reading, April 2015.

My life has been all about health – it is my passion. We are a species that should be born to wellness, not illness and I have seen far too much unnecessary ill-health. As a nutritionist, I have met people who have become poorly through no fault of their own (not knowingly at least), or the fault of others who are may also have been misguided. To me, there is absolutely no point in treating anyone unless I also tell them why we’re doing what we’re doing. Education – period.

During my yoga class at Rivermead Leisure Complex in Reading in October last year, a light came on – and burned brightly! Educating people on a one-to-one basis is great, but why not get lots of people in one place, on one day and have knowledgeable, natural health and wellbeing professionals to guide these people to better health choices? An event, in fact! Taking the bull by the horns, after the class, I sought a manager. He loved the idea! I was thinking a few stands and demonstrations but when the events manager showed me the hall available – I was truly astounded! It was huge! “Oh yes,” he said. “You’ll easily get eighty stands in here.” Gauntlet thrown down!

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After a chat with my friend Isabel (Once Upon a Cook), the show was born. The main aspects of healthy life would be demonstrated as:
Moving – how we exercise
Nourishing – how we feed ourselves
Wellbeing – how we live

For the next four months, the computer and I were joined at the hip. I only wanted the best people exhibiting. Wherever possible, exhibitors would be fairly local or be selling goods online. It was important to be showcasing that which is on the doorstep in Reading.

After a many sleepless nights, I had my exhibitors. (Inspiration often visited at that time! A pencil and paper at the side of the bed was vital.) This bunch of people were bursting with enthusiasm!

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The day was fabulous. Let me say now, many years as a nurse and nutritionist does NOT make one an event organiser! I made mistakes and lessons have been learned. Nonetheless, from the feedback forms, it seems that the visitors had a great time. The feedback from the exhibitors was that they had done well and had loved being in a hall with so many like-minded people – I couldn’t agree more! Most of the exhibitors will be back for the next show.

 

From the visitors
“Exceeded expectations – absolutely brilliant!”
“Brilliant! Really enjoyed myself!”
“Two days needed!”
“It’s perfect, but more stalls!”

From the exhibitors
“Excellent for the first time”
“First time – we’re impressed!”
“A good quality event”
“Great to meet like-minded people!”
“We had a blast!” (read testimonial here)

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Planning has begun for the next event in Reading. It will be bigger and better! I have been approached by several more companies who would like to exhibit in November. There will be more healthy food stands, more holistic therapists, some exciting new skin products and it is a great place for your Christmas shopping! Join us:

NOVEMBER 22ND  RIVERMEAD LEISURE COMPLEX, READING 10 – 4 PM

AND, the It’s Your Life! show will be in Birmingham in the new year, hosted by Isabel Natrins of Once Upon a Cook… Food wisdom, Better Living!

A New Health Event for Reading – It’s Your Life! April 2015

All of my working life has been concerned with health. I spent over 40 years in nursing – the NHS, private nursing and a charity. Observing over this length of time makes obvious what poor diet and lifestyle can do to a body – and most of us are aware of this even if we don’t always live up to it.

The price we pay when we take prescribed drugs

file000237973770The other problems that I have witnessed have come from drugs – legally prescribed for some ailment. It has to be remembered that in order to bring about help for an ailment, drugs must (or it happens coincidentally,) “poison” another anatomical or physiological part of us. Take arthritis or other inflammatory conditions. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often used for pain relief and these damage the gastric lining. Antibiotics prescribed for an infection usually decimate all the bacteria living on and in our bodies, indiscriminately. Hence, the bacterium causing the infection is conquered – but so are our beneficial bacteria – leaving our immune system wide open to attack from opportunist micro-organisms, making us sick again.

There is a price to pay for having our ills treated. Don’t misunderstand me – I for one would not be here writing this if I had not had mega-units of penicillin after a cat-scratch hospitalised me! There is a place for medical intervention – as a nurse, I saw many lives saved.

Wellness not illness

Disease prevention is where I am concentrating now. I am not necessarily talking about early detection of ill-health – although some methods are a good idea. We are born to wellness (for the most part) – not a life of illness. What is needed is proper education to help people with this, hence the “It’s Your Life!” show at Rivermead Leisure Centre, Reading. Everyone needs to feel that there is choice when it comes to their health and I set about the organisation of the event with this is mind. Health education should be free so there was no charge for entry to the show and neither will there be in the future.

IYL 12th April 2015  172It was hard work looking for the right people to exhibit – but an absolute joy to feel people’s passion for it! What better way to spread the word about improving our chances of a long and healthy life than to have eighty stands, manned by knowledgeable and sincere people? The feedback from the public was extremely encouraging. Berkshire has obviously been waiting for this and we are going to deliver. Bigger and better next time!

The aims of the show

The main aim was to show healthier choices in Moving, Wellbeing and Nourishing – which all add up to our lifestyles. We had a yoga and dance demonstration; there was a Nordic Walking specialist; Rivermead’s gym manager was on hand to answer questions about their facilities. There were many natural and holistic therapists offering taster treatments; product exhibitors were many, selling natural foods, personal care and other products to help preserve and nurture our health and our planet.

Another aim of the show was, where possible, to find small local companies. It is good for the economy, the carbon foot-print, Berkshire dwellers and the businesses themselves. One of the new local businesses wrote a lovely review of the show and you can see it here. Those companies from further afield offered goods by mail order.

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This show will continue twice yearly for as long as I am able! There will be a Christmas show in November and you will see all the natural therapies and hear the health advice, but with the opportunity to do some shopping for gifts too. See you there!

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Photographs courtesy of Kathryn Fell Photography

Nutrition For Children

My daughter’s friend works in a children’s nursery locally to me. She suggested to the manager that it might be beneficial to the parents and staff, if they had some help with planning meals for the children and understanding what nutrition means for them. As we all know, feeding children nutritious food can be challenging! The mum’s were great and I have to hand it to them, they are really doing their best. It was great to see a good turn-out too. These mums really wanted to extend their knowledge.

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The variety of nutrients for a child is the same as for an adult, but some become more important. Adults need to maintain their health but children need to grow satisfactorily. Nutrition for both is vitally important but as adults, we can change little about our structure. Children are forming their structure, so for their future health and mental development, certain nutrients are paramount.

 

There are nine essential amino acids for building bodies

Growth requires building blocks and these come from proteins and fats. Proteins are made up of amino acids and there are nine which are essential – the body cannot make them so they must be taken in the diet. There are another eleven that we need but the body can synthesize these. The essential amino acids are easily obtained from animal proteins, as they contain all nine together. Vegetarians must be aware that these are not present all together in vegetable proteins. Beans or nuts should be eaten with grains at the same meal for all to be present. Better still, dairy products and eggs should be a major part of the diet.

 

 Animal fats make hormones, line our cells and more

The fatty acids from fats are another vital component for our structure. They line our cells, supply much-needed cholesterol, contribute to our immune systems and make hormones to name a few. Quite apart from these physiological requirements, fats make food taste good. Our taste-buds have a purpose – of natural foods, they tell us what we need. Unfortunately, we can fool our taste-buds when all food groups are mixed together – as in a cake for example. They detect the fat and protein (eggs and butter) but get confused with the addition of carbohydrates (sugar and flour). That doesn’t mean we should never eat cake (perish the thought!). What we need to remember is that we can easily overeat these mixed foods, which can be detrimental to our health. If you try to overeat double cream – lovely though it is – you won’t be able to eat much or you will be sick! The body has these mechanisms in place to ensure that we stay healthy.

It is also worth remembering that butter or cheese mixed with well-cooked vegetables not only makes them taste better to a child, but also helps release nutrients and their uptake.

Animal fats contain the fat-soluble vitamins A, D3, E and K2. These vitamins work together to channel minerals into bones and teeth. They allow absorption of calcium and other minerals, direct them to the skeleton and set the minerals into the bone. All of these stages are vital. Cheese has everything needed for this process. So simple!

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Carbohydrates can be included but they are not “essential”

Carbohydrates are the food group to be wary of. They are reduced to sugar by the body for easy absorption.  Children need energy but they will get some from fats. Including a few potatoes at dinner, a couple of slices of sourdough bread (easier to digest) for lunch, or a bowl of porridge with cream in the morning is fine. Please take care though – it is easy to add too many of these foods into the diet, leaving no room for those they really need. There are no essential carbohydrates.

 

Other foods

Vegetables are always difficult for children. To be honest, if they are eating meat, liver, fish and lots of animal fats, they will come to no harm without them. However, we want to get them used to eating some as they do have lots of nutrients for us. Cook them well, add butter or cheese, make pureed soups or a frittata.

Drinks can be an issue for children. Sweet fizzy drinks should not be introduced. Milk can be great for children but please buy organic, unhomogenised or preferably raw milk if you can find it. Encourage water drinking, very weak tea or at a push, very dilute apple juice.

The sun

Not food, but still nutrition. Let children play in the sun with no sunscreen and very little clothing for a while. They must not burn, but they will get a huge dose of vitamin D3 which no food can supply. Don’t be afraid of it – if there were no sun, there would be no us. We need it!

One last word, please buy organic food whenever possible. Children do not need pesticides, herbicides, antibiotic and hormone residues. They need nutritious, fresh, preferably local foods that will only do them good, not harm.

 

The Lost Skill – Cooking From Scratch

I have recently looked at some of my old blogs and I noticed a common thread in many of them. Whatever the topic I always end up saying “learn to cook” or “cook from scratch” or “acquire cookery skills”.

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We have really lost the plot with this. When I was at school, I learned “domestic science”. I think this is a perfect term for cookery because before it becomes an art, the science has to be learned. A rather strange analogy but it works – if you learn the rules of the card game bridge, you can play. BUT, to be good at it you have to have acquire the skills to play well – which comes with practice. So at school, I learned the science of cooking. I have been cooking ever since then and whilst I am no expert, more than forty years of practice means I can cook nutritious and (most of the time!) delicious food.

My children can cook. At school they learned very little about basic cookery and it always annoyed me that they often brought home cakes and biscuits but rarely soup or (if ever) bread. What does this teach children? That was twenty years ago and they have now learned a little more thank goodness, but I wonder what they are taught in schools now? We are a microwave society – food goes into the microwave in its packaging and is often eaten straight from this. Everything is for quickness and convenience and there is no thought for nutrition. This way of eating is just to fill stomachs and ultimately there will be health issues to contend with.
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Young people – even middle-aged people – may stay reasonably healthy eating like this, but it cannot last. The body need nutrients and if they are not supplied, it will age quickly and die – just like every other living organism.

Another problem is the notion that eating well is expensive. As a nutritionist my response is – so is illness and death – can you afford not to eat well? As a person who has always struggled with money (you don’t start nursing to get rich!), I try to temper my passion by saying – change something and one way to change is to learn cooking skills. The foods you will use are far superior to the ingredients of any packaged foods or ready-meals. These are made from the cheapest ingredients with lots of additives to make them palatable. Don’t take my word for it, just look at the ingredients list on the packaging.

Isabel Natrins at “Once Upon a Cook – Food Wisdom Better Living”, is a good friend who shares my passion for good healthy food and has all the skills I was talking of above, but she has the “art” in spades! Her journey started (as it should), whilst she was young – she had a mother who took pride in cooking. Later, Isabel attended the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Cork and today she owns her own company. Isabel runs workshops for people who want to learn new cookery skills – from baking bread, to probiotic foods, to what to do with a chicken! Here is Isabel showing you how to joint a chicken – and listen to what she has to say about quality.

Isabel jointing a chicken:

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Home Grown in a Few Days – For Pennies!

We have issues with the ground attached to our house. Since the house was built on an area that used to be a gravel pit – well, I expect you can understand our problem! I have, over many years tried to improve the soil, but it has made little difference. Perpetual spinach is it! Actually, for anyone wanting to start growing food in their gardens, this is an amazing crop. I start growing it during the summer and it gets going before winter sets in, when growing slows almost to a halt. However, it speeds up again and you just pick the leaves as needed and it keeps producing more. Even now, when it has gone to seed, there are some small leaves to use raw in salads. I will be sowing the next lot at the end of the month.

Thanks to Dr. Joseph Mercola, I now grow seed sprouts.He has written about the subject extensively. Lots of you may have done this – mustard and cress and maybe mung beans. However, there are lots of seeds that can be used for sprouting. I am currently growing sunflower and daikon radish seeds (see pictures) but others include, broccoli, red kale, alfalfa, fenugreek and leek. Watercress too – as long as the compost is kept moist.

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Seeds tend to have a fairly high carbohydrate content – grains are seeds so think of wheat and rice. They also have a fabulous nutritional content. They are tiny concentrated packages of nutrition which just want a comfortable moist bed in which to create another parent plant. Acorns to oaks! When they sprout, much of the carbohydrate content is used and proteins are formed – these are the building blocks for all life forms. Plants harness the sun and use its energy to create their own energy systems. Providing they have the sun, a regular supply of water and organic compost to grow in, they will become a very valuable source of vitamins, minerals and amino acids in a relatively digestible form.

I use half-trays as there only three of us at home. It’s also nice to have more than one variety on the go. To be honest, whilst still edible, when the proper leaves start to grow (as opposed to the initial cotyledonous leaves) the concentrated nutrients and flavour are not as good. Put a centimetre of organic compost into the seed tray and water it. Sprinkle the seeds thickly and sprinkle a little more compost to cover them. Lightly water the top. Leave on a windowsill and wait, watering daily (I use an old washing-up liquid bottle for this). In a day or two, the seeds will be up and once they are 3-4 cms high, cut with scissors and add to salads, sandwiches or smoothies. Don’t let them get too big – cut and store in the fridge for a day or two. I find that I need to assist the sunflower sprouts to shed the seed casings, but the others are fine.

There are a couple of other things you can do too, to make the pennies go further. I buy, during the spring/summer (it doesn’t work in the winter) a bag of “Majestic Basil” from Waitrose. Wash it thoroughly then chop off a tiny part of the stem and put the bunch into water – an old cup/glass is fine. Change the water daily, but after a few days, the stems will have roots! Plant 4-5 to a 15cm pot, in organic compost and they will live happily on your windowsill/in the greenhouse for several months. Pick leaves as you need but obviously leave some on the individual plants so they continue to grow. Not organic exactly but as only a few leaves are used for flavouring, I think it’s fine.

2014-07-05 14.00.07Lastly (for now anyway!), lettuces. Buy mixed leaf seeds and sow thinly into troughs or pots. As they emerge, thin them a little but only to around 1-2 cms apart. When about 8-10 cms tall, harvest a few leaves from each plant and let them continue growing.So easy and takes only a week or two at this time of year!

2014-07-05 13.57.29Use organic compost – it doesn’t cost much more than the usual stuff but it is better for you and the environment. Also, find organic sprouting seeds – there are loads on the web. Start with a small amount of seeds and then buy larger amounts when you know which you like the best. My favourite are sunflower seeds so I buy 200g each time. They have a “meatiness” about them and taste mildly of the seeds. Radish sprouts taste exactly like radishes. I think I have to try leeks soon – love that idea! Happy sprouting!

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Choices Choices…

What does “choice” mean to you? Every day we are faced with choices and we decide what to do based upon our experiences, knowledge, available time to contemplate a situation and our mood.

We make choices when driving – have we got sufficient stopping distance when the amber light shows or should we accelerate? Should we overtake the slow driver in front or sit tight? At what time is it safe to enter a round-about? In the main, it is experience that answers these questions but experience comes after we have passed our driving test and we have met these situations for real. Only then can we become safe, competent drivers making the right choices. In other words, we have to learn the basics before we can make safe judgements.

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How about your work? Were you given instruction prior to starting a new job? Did you have to get a degree in something in order to follow your career path? Did you then have to undertake further, more specific training? The point I am trying to make is that in order to make meaningful choices, we have firstly to be taught and then we gain experience. It applies to most things. You only once need to click on a dodgy email to find out what a computer virus is and how to recognize it!

“Illness for the large part is preventable

You have heard it before, but if you don’t have your health, you lose everything – your freedom, your job, your home possibly and ultimately, even your life. I know this sounds dramatic but as a nurse, I have seen this so very many times. Illness for the large part is preventable. I have felt sad and frustrated when patients are diagnosed with preventable conditions that are set to devastate lives. So what is your choice?

Most people “learn” about food by walking into a supermarket and selecting foods that they want not need. We are not altogether to blame for this. A supermarket layout is designed for their benefit, not yours. Your choice is being manipulated. So often I see mothers with children in the supermarket and the children are making the choices! Did you see an advert on the television last night that made you think “I must try that”?   Again, our choices are being manipulated.

If we do learn about the food we are eating, how can you be sure that the information is sound? We are bombarded with so-called health programmes – people losing weight, embarrassing bodies, fat versus sugar and so on. These programmes are entertainment not education. By watching them we learn that vegetables are important to health and of course they are, but what we are not told is even more important. Vegetables may have been sprayed with toxic pesticides and the food may have been genetically modified which has known, serious long-term effects. The other little gem we all think we know is about calories. Calories in versus calories out = balance. So now we are searching for low calorie foods and this is stated on packaging making it easy for us. Another of our choices has been decided. Oh and of course, we must look for low-fat foods as fat is fattening. The reason the Western World has epidemics of obesity, type 2 diabetes and cancers is because we trust that the information given to us is correct. We weren’t let loose in a car in order to learn safe driving so why do we think that going to a supermarket will educate us in nutrition? In both cases, we are going to crash.

My advice is to learn. Read. Possibly the first thing to look for is vested interest. Are you going to learn about probiotics from yogurt makers? Do you hear vitamin information from breakfast cereal producers? Do you trust information about heart health from margarine manufacturers?  Will you learn about cholesterol from people who want you to lower yours? When these questions are asked, it sounds mad doesn’t it?

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I want you to learn about nutrition and health from people whose aim is education not profit and I am one of these! As a nurse I believe we all have a right to health and I want to share my knowledge so that we can all make informed choices – the way it should be.

A wonderful non-profit organization is the Weston A. Price Foundation. This site has a wealth of information from people who are well qualified and really care. It’s a great place to learn the basics of nutrition.

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Never “Diet” Again

file0002072485149So many diets are started at New Year and a few people will achieve their goals, but most will have returned to their old ways by February feeling thoroughly disillusioned. I want to address the subject as so often these diets are doomed to failure due to hunger.

 

This failure is more to do with eating the wrong foods than lack of will power. When you are hungry, it is because your body requires nutrients. When this is done properly, the body stops telling you to feed it. Your most likely reaction to the feeling of hunger is to eat something filling but not too high in calories – bread, rice cakes or potatoes are common choices.  This becomes a self-perpetuating scenario – for all these foods are broken down to sugar and this is the problem. Repeatedly eating foods that are broken down to sugar will make you hungry. If you can stick to your calorie controlled diet, you will lose weight but most cannot stay the course and those best intentions will be wasted. Here is an article I wrote a while ago about sugar.

Some recommendations to help you lose weight, maintain good nutrition and stay hunger-free!

  1. Stop eating the foods that the body turns to sugar. These are the concentrated carbohydrates: bread and all other foods made with grain, potatoes, sweet foods including all fizzy drinks, root and other starchy vegetables, fruit.
  2. Base meals on eggs, natural meat with all its fat, fish and shell-fish, green leafy vegetables, all cheeses, butter and cream.
  3. Eat slowly and eat to satisfy not stuff.
  4. Drink plenty of water/tea/coffee but only enough to keep your urine pale yellow. If you use milk in drinks – only a splash as milk contains a sugar called lactose.
  5. Don’t over exercise but walking/swimming is sufficient especially in the first couple of weeks. After this you can increase it to a level that you are comfortable with.
  6. It has been shown recently that eating all your meals within an 8-10 hour period of the day, rather than eating from the time you get up to the time you go to bed. It is called intermittent fasting but don’t let that put you off!
  7. Concentrate on being healthier overall rather than just “thinner”.
  8. Allow an occasional snack – see below.
  9. Do not cut down on animal fats – in fact increase them. If you restrict one form of energy (ie. carbohydrates) then you must provide another – fat. Stop eating all vegetable oils other than olive oil and coconut oil.
  10. DON’T count calories.

A typical day’s food could look like this:

  • Breakfast:
    A 2-3 egg cheese and mushroom omelette cooked in lots of butter.
  • Lunch:
    A big leafy salad with cucumber and a small tomato, (dressed with full fat mayonnaise or olive oil and vinegar) with smoked mackerel /tuna/ham/cheese/egg etc.
  • Dinner:
    Steak – then add some cream to the pan with a blob of mustard/Stilton cheese or a splash of brandy. Pour over the steak. Serve with broccoli/cauliflower/mushrooms etc.
  • Snacks:
    25g macadamia nuts or small packet pork scratchings with a glass of dry wine. (OCCASIONALLY!)
    Piece of cheese or stick of celery with cream cheese/taramasalata down the centre.
    A dozen raspberries. 4 strawberries or handful of blueberries – once or twice a week only.
    A few olives.

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Drink as needed but it is a good idea to have a glass of water half an hour before meals. This ensures that the hunger mechanism works properly and doesn’t fool you into thinking that you need more food than you do!

When you have lost weight, you can increase the carbohydrates a bit – but not what you were eating before. Start with a small potato with your dinner or half a slice of bread with breakfast. Try to keep the carbs to one meal per day only.

Good luck!

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Magnesium – The Vanishing Mineral

Concern about our magnesium levels is well-founded as this report shows. Magnesium is needed by all life and is one which is easily depleted in our soils, given current conventional agricultural methods.

Since magnesium is needed for life, the list of its uses is long. Here are some of them:
Help with stabilising blood sugar.
Blood pressure is optimised.
Bone formation and upkeep are enabled.
Energy levels are boosted.
The conditions that are associated with magnesium deficiency are fibromyalgia, heart disease, diabetes, migraines and many more.

SSo where do we get this mineral? Firstly, buy organic. The agricultural method ensures the soil is properly replenished, so that your food has balanced nutrients. The best foods for  magnesium are leafy greens, nuts and seeds, avocados, cocoa and chocolate that is high in cocoa solids. Not difficult is it? If you want an occasional quick and safe top-up, add 100g Epsom salts to your bath. (This is also a good way to help with a detox or to aid sleep.) There are many forms of magnesium, but these should be used under the guidance of a professional.

 As with most nutrients, magnesium doesn’t work alone. When one nutrient is taken in isolation either the benefits are not properly realised, or the body will just get rid of it as it cannot be put to good use. Food is the medicine (or seek help).

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The Price of Health – addendum

Making a profit on a product or service, is of course a way of making a living. Most small businesses operate in this way but the multi-nationals have just got more and more greedy.

The horse-meat scandal a while ago is just one example of this. It is wrong on so many levels – the least of which is the ingestion of horse meat! The meat, providing it has been responsibly reared, is an excellent food. But straight away, the first issue pops up. “Responsibly reared” meat is I suspect, the last thing on the mind of someone determined to increase profits – which brings us smartly to the second issue. We’ve been hoodwinked, putting it mildly. Why do we trust the people who run these conglomerates? We have trusted them and when this has blown over, we will again! This would be madness, because they will just be looking for the next con to increase their profits.

Another major problem for us all, is that our right to choose has been removed. Many in this country would choose not to eat horse meat. But those whose religions dictate what foods are eaten, also have a right to be outraged at the companies that have let them down by adulterating foods claiming to be beef when pork has been added.

I know that these thoughts are not unique but it sets the scene for my worries as a nutritionist.

For some children, a hot school lunch is the only one they are likely to get. School dinners are never going to be the best food nutritionally, because, they are likely to be chosen on cost over nutrition. Nonetheless, there will be some protein, fat and carbohydrate and therefore some of the important nutrients for building bodies will be present.

Horse meat is undoubtedly a cheap option or we wouldn’t have had this fiasco, but deception/greed/corruption/conspiracy aside, it is a nutritious meat. We need to get rid of this ridiculous “yuk” factor that we have acquired over time so that there is food for all – proper nutritious food. Why should we give our kids “kids” food? This is nonsense. Some years ago, there was an experiment in a primary school. The cooks had to be taught how to cook war-time fare and everyone had to eat it. Not only this but some children (and parents) also had to eat this way at home. There was some resistance of course, but mainly at the start of the experiment. Later, it became very well accepted. Food was plentiful and perhaps a little too stodgy for some people now, but traditional cookery methods and ingredients were used and I imagine that they would be far healthier than today’s meals.

Christmas Dinner Typical meals would include lard-cooked fried eggs or porridge (not the expensive microwave or instant oat cereals) Bread baked the old fashioned way was served with dripping thus saving those precious fat-soluble vitamins. Dinner consisted of stews, soups, offal and root and leafy veg and of course, potatoes. Spotted dick (more lard) and rice pudding were the puddings on offer. Tea consisted of kidneys/sardines or something else, on toast and very basic cakes.

The fact that the children got on well with this diet is testimony in itself – they’re adaptable. The school lunches above cost very little – probably the same as the bought in processed food available now which has only to be heated. What has happened to real cooks?
One of the best ways to get loads of nutrition into a fairly inexpensive, delicious lunch is – soup! If it is made with home made stock (cheap as chips but takes a while!), lots of veg and some inexpensive fish/meat, you end up with all that children need at lunch time. Accompany with a cheese scone or some decent bread and top off with a yogurt or piece of fruit and bingo! Why is this so difficult? I know they can’t have this every day but there are loads of other meals that count be offered without breaking the bank.

Parents have rightly (but in my view, for the wrong reason) been outraged at what goes in to school meals. But if they decide to give their children a packed lunch, the risk they might be taking is replacing one poor food with another. Jam sandwiches, crisps, chocolate bars and a sweet drink will offer nothing nutritionally and will ultimately do harm.

The best thing that could come from all this is that domestic science lessons will be returned to the classroom, starting in primary school. The only way that coming generations can possibly be healthy, is to learn to cook.

I am not being melodramatic when I say that if things carry on the way they are now, we will have parents burying their children in the future – and that is not what nature intended.

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Frankenstein Food

Making a profit on a product or service, is of course a way of making a living. Most small businesses operate in this way but the multi-nationals have just got more and more greedy.

The recent horse-meat scandal is just one example of this. It is wrong on so many levels – the least of which is the ingestion of horse meat! The meat, providing it has been responsibly reared, is an excellent food. But straight away, the first issue pops up. “Responsibly reared” is, I suspect, the last thing on the mind of someone determined to increase profits – which brings us smartly to the second issue. We’ve been hoodwinked, putting it mildly. Why do we trust the people who run these conglomerates? We have trusted them and when this has blown over, we will again! This would be madness, because they will just be looking for the next con to increase their turnover.

Another major problem for us all, is that our right to choose has been removed. Many in this country would choose not to eat horse meat. But those whose religions dictate what foods are eaten also have a right to be outraged at the companies that have let them down by adulterating foods claiming to be beef when pork has been added.

I know that these thoughts are not unique but it sets the scene for my worries as a nutritionist.

For some children, a hot school lunch is the only one they are likely to get. School dinners are never going to be the best food nutritionally, because, they are likely to be chosen on cost over nutrition. Nonetheless, there will be some protein, fat and carbohydrate and therefore some of the important nutrients for building bodies will be present.

Horse meat is undoubtedly a cheap option or we wouldn’t have had this fiasco, but deception/greed/corruption/conspiracy aside, it is a nutritious meat. We need to get rid of this ridiculous “yuk” factor that we have acquired over time so that there is food for all – proper nutritious food. Why should we give our kids “kids” food? This is nonsense. Some years ago, there was an experiment in a primary school. The cooks had to be taught how to cook war-time fare and everyone had to eat it. Not only this but some children (and parents) also had to eat this way at home. There was some resistance of course, but mainly at the start of the experiment, but later, it became very well accepted. Food was plentiful and perhaps a little too stodgy for some people now, but traditional cookery methods and ingredients were used and they would be far healthier than today’s meals.

Typical meals would include lard cooked fried eggs or porridge (not the expensive microwave or instant oat cereals) Bread baked the old fashioned way was served with dripping thus saving those precious fat-soluble vitamins. Dinner consisted of stews, soups, offal and root and leafy veg and of course, potatoes. Spotted dick and rice pudding were the puddings on offer. Tea consisted of kidneys/sardines or something else, on toast and very basic cakes.

The fact that the children got on well with this diet is testimony in itself – they’re adaptable. The school lunches above cost very little – probably the same as the bought in processed food available now which has only to be heated. What has happened to real cooks?
One of the best ways to get loads of nutrition into a fairly inexpensive, delicious lunch is – soup! If it is made with home made stock (cheap as chips but takes a while!), lots of veg  and some inexpensive fish/meat, you end up with all that children need at lunch time. Accompany with a cheese scone or some decent bread and top off with a yogurt or piece of fruit and bingo! Why is this so difficult? I know they can’t have this every day but there are loads of other meals that could be offered without breaking the bank. If anyone wants recipes – please email me.

Parents have rightly (but in my view, for the wrong reason) been outraged at what goes in to school meals. But if they decide to give their children a packed lunch, the risk they might be taking is replacing one poor food with another. Jam sandwiches, crisps, chocolate bars and a sweet drink will offer nothing nutritionally and will ultimately do harm.

I despair. The best thing that could come from all this is that domestic science lessons will be returned to the classroom, starting in primary school. The only way that coming generations can possibly be healthy, is to learn to cook. I am not being melodramatic when I say that if things carry on the way they are now, we will have parents burying their children in the future – and that is not what nature intended.

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