New Zealand Nutrition Week Back to basics - the importance of cooking and family meals In the past children have learnt to cook through watching and being involved in meal preparation at home; school cooking classes and perhaps the odd cooking show. Now with many households’ struggling to find time to cook and eat together there is a loss of kitchen confidence, less passing on of skills and less value placed on the family meal time. Cooking is an essential life skill in the same way managing money is an essential life skill. Children and teens who can cook are well placed to; Look after themselves Manage on a budget Eat healthy food Share a meal with friends and family Maintain tradition and culture Pass their skill on when they have families of their own The school curriculum includes Food Technology as a compulsory subject in year 7 & 8 but Food Technology does not necessarily cover basic skills like; Cooking with affordable ingredients Preparing vegetables Using leftovers Making a meal out of leftovers in the cupboard and fridge Some schools recognise cooking as a life skill and have made cooking compulsory in year 9, the New Zealand Nutrition Foundation believes all children deserve this opportunity and basic cooking skills need to be included in the school curriculum at a point where all students are able to participate. Not only is cooking important but the way we eat is also important. A study comparing child wellbeing in OECD countries found 65% of 15 year olds in New Zealand reported eating the main meal of the day with their parents several times per week, the second lowest in the OECD. There is an increasing body of evidence supporting the benefits of families eating together. To even have had this discussion a generation or two ago would have been inconceivable but times have changed and now staggered meal times and different kids meals are the norm in many homes. Advantages to families eating together include; For teens fewer indicators of depressive mood For teens fewer risk taking behaviours Better eating habits for younger children (less reliance on kids meals of nuggets, fish fingers and bland pasta) Improved nutrition through increased fruit and vegetable consumption Actions speaking louder than words – parents have the opportunity to model healthy eating Reduced risk of obesity in children and adolescents A 2011 Families Commission report found students who had more frequent family meals were more likely to report better family relationship and parental monitoring and identified family meals as a good way to support their adolescents through the transition to adulthood.
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