Rachel Smalley is a radio host for Newstalk ZB. Listen to her between 5am and 6am every weekday morning.

Rachel Smalley: Children need cooking skills

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Kids need to be taught what healthy eating is - and it starts at home. Photo / 123RF
Kids need to be taught what healthy eating is - and it starts at home. Photo / 123RF

We're expecting more and more from our teachers these days.

They tend to pick up where our parenting skills fall short, don't they?

And the Heart Foundation says the latest research shows we need teachers to do more on the nutrition front when it comes to teaching kids basic cooking skills.

Kids at intermediate - those aged 10-12 - are taught cooking skills under the current curriculum. It used to be called home economics. I think it's now called food technology, or some other flash name.

And although the Heart Foundation says many teachers are doing a good job, they say the message is inconsistent.

Only 13 per cent of teachers surveyed said they considered the planning and preparing of a complete meal to be a key objective.

Much of the food that's cooked in class is based around cakes, muffins and desserts, and very little cooking includes vegetables or fruit.

So why does this concern the Heart Foundation?

Well, one in three kids is overweight or obese in this country. They have poor diets and they're not getting sound nutrition or sound nutrition advice at home.

Whose role is it to teach kids about nutrition? It's a parent's role of course. But we know that some - perhaps many - parents fall well short in this area for many reasons: short on time, short on money, short on parenting skills.

And so cooking has become something of a dying art. We tend to reach for food that's good to go. Kids open the pantry or the fridge, and look for something they can eat now. Straight from pantry or fridge to mouth.

How many times have you seen teens open a well-stocked pantry or fridge and say "there's nothing to eat". What they're really saying is "there's nothing to eat now".

How many teenagers can cook a steak, or roast a chicken? Or make a pasta sauce with meat and vege from scratch? Do they know how long to steam broccoli? Or mash potatoes? Or whip up a stir-fry rice?

Everyone can make a salad, surely? Or can they? I don't know.

But the Heart Foundation says it's a skill our children must learn and the best, most
consistent place to do that is at school.

I talked to Finn about this last night. He's 8, and he said he didn't think it was important for him to learn to cook because he was planning on living with Mum and Dad forever. I'll remind him of that when he's 16 and thinks that Mum and Dad are the world's most boring people.

But I used to plonk him on the kitchen bench when he was little and he'd watch me cooking. But now he has homework, and he's tired after school so the kitchen's not his favourite place to be. He does a bit of cooking with Granny, or should i say baking? It's usually chocolate chippie biscuits or banana loaf.

But, if you'll excuse the pun, it's food for thought isn't it? Who is teaching our children to cook? And while we're relying on schools to teach our kids the basics, good nutrition and basic cooking skills really come down to the guidance of parents and grandparents, don't it?

Heart disease kills 6000 people a year in this country. That's one person every 90 seconds.

And in most cases, it comes down to what we're putting in our mouths. And that means good nutrition is perhaps one of the greatest lessons in life.

- Rachel Smalley hosts Early Edition on Newstalk ZB

- Newstalk ZB

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Rachel Smalley is a radio host for Newstalk ZB. Listen to her between 5am and 6am every weekday morning.

Rachel’s career in journalism is extensive. She has reported from Europe, Africa, Asia and America, covering elections in Britain, the United States, France and New Zealand. She joined Newstalk ZB as host of KPMG Early Edition in 2013 and also works on TVNZ’s Sunday and Q&A current affairs programmes.

Read more by Rachel Smalley

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