Tuesday, 21 January 2014

99 Problems (with food!) but sugar ain't one...

Just watching the Sugar programme on television with the oldest. I was astonished that the family didn’t know a wholegrain strawberry yoghurt had lots of sugar in it. They assumed because it was wholegrain it was healthy. I was amazed that they didn't think to look at the label and voiced my opinions loudly. Then they had Nutrigrain bars for breakfast, Really? Sam told me if I didn’t calm down we’d have to switch it off. So we watched it and I ranted on Facebook to Richard from school who thought a sugar tax was a great idea.
This was followed by a programme that told us that Vanilla Extract actually contained other things than just vanilla pods, well that’s a no brainer surely? What on earth do people thing they’re eating?!

 I have to say that advertising doesn't help - the Nutella ad' conveniently forgets to mention the sugar in that concoction and isn't their strapline ''wake up to Nutella'' well you can sod off Ferrero - oooh, what else do they make? - I think NOT. People seem very detached from their food. 

''Which? chief policy adviser Sue Davies said: "We think it is misleading to tell people about the hazelnuts, skimmed milk and cocoa, but not mention that it's over half sugar."
"You would have to eat a whole jar of Nutella just to get the claimed 'equivalent of a glass of skimmed milk'. That would also mean consuming over 100g of sugar, even for the smallest jar of Nutella." The consumer group said Nutella was 55 per cent sugar and 31 per cent fat.
An Advertising Standards Authority spokeswoman said the watchdog had launched an investigation following the batch of complaints.
"The nature of the complaints is that hazelnuts and milk aren't the main ingredients.' she said.'' From the  Daily Mail (yes, I know!)
I’m not a skinny min in any way shape or form. My weight has always been a yo-yo but over the last few years it is going down with the big yo-yos getting less and less. I do know WHAT I am eating though. I’ve always cooked from scratch. My Mum was a fairly simple 1970s cook; Bolognese, shepherd’s pie, roast on most Sundays but only pudding when we had visitors and the only bought food was a pasty from Grooms the bakers on a Saturday for a treat. That was made at the bakers not shipped in and cooked. We didn’t have biscuits or yoghurts or squash. If we went to Grandmas we had homemade cakes and they ate jugged hare and pheasant and things Granddad had shot.

Dad had the local newsagents and the shelves behind the counter were lined with those big glass sweet jars. All our friends thought we could help ourselves to sweets and crips but we were only allowed a quarter pound of sweets on a Saturday night for a treat.

Photo from The Guardian

When my Mum met her second husband he loved to cook and introduced us to Indian and Chinese food – there were no takeaways in our part of North Norfolk at the time except for the two fish and chip shops on the quay. Then my Step-dad set up a wholesale greengrocers and we regularly ate what he called ‘Queer gear'; veg we could hardly pronounce the name of let alone had ever seen before. He would buy anything unusual and see what he could make with it. When I got to about 18 I went off the texture of meat and gradually over the next couple of years stopped eating it completely and by the time I was married had stopped eating fish too.
I nannied for two families who were dentists and they reinforced what my own childhood had, no squash, no fruit juices, water to drink, no sweets or puddings. Lady Colwyn introduced me to the Cranks cook book and wholefoods. I didn’t know that flour came in any colour other than white!   Cranks Creamy Leek Croustade is still one of my favourite all time recipes. I also nannied for David Bruce who had the Firkin pubs and he taught me all about red wine, but that's another story!
So by the time my own kids came along we were well into wholefood vegetarian cooking and just like my Mum, cooking from scratch. My twin babies had whatever we ate liquidised. I remember the Health Visitor told me I must not give them curries as it would upset their tummies. They weren't madras style and when I asked her what Indian babies ate she didn’t know what to say. So I continued to give them our food and stuck with sweets and treats only on a Saturday too.
When I had my third baby Judy came to look after the twins now aged 2 ½ and she took them to the park where they ran up to another child who was carrying some sweets and indignantly said ‘You can’t have sweets, it’s not Saturday!’

First time out with Daddy on his own - Castle Coombe circuit and ice-creams! 
We moved to the States a few months later and the Mums there were shocked that my kids were veggie; they thought that was very wrong whilst they fed their kids out of jars, gave them burgers and pizza and coke. Wheras my English friends and I had met at the park, garden centre or for a walk at Westonbirt the US Mums met in Chuck e Cheeses Pizza 'restaurant' 

We kept up with being veggie. Once I bought the kids Lucky Charms cereal and they wanted to know why it had coloured things in it. The first time we ordered a pizza to be delivered they were astonished. We also met a family there who gave their son ketchup sandwiches everyday and microwave chips. Literally EVERY day because ‘that’s all he’ll eat’. Children will seriously eat what you put in front of them if they haven’t had loads of snacks, don’t think anything else is an option and you present it beautifully and sit down and eat with them. Just call me Supernanny.

We came back from the states  with another baby who had somehow absorbed some US-meat-DNA because as soon as he could walk he wandered over to our friend’s BBQ. Rich looked at me and asked if Charlie could have a chicken leg. I have to say with the older three I’d waited until they understood what meat was before they tried it but Charlie was the youngest and I let a lot of things go with the youngest. So I said yes and the story is still told of how Charlie stood at the BBQ saying 'Chicken leg, chicken leg' over and over. He loved meat, and still does.
Until my kids went to school they thought pudding was a glass layered with natural yoghurt, cereal and fruit with a drizzle of honey on top. Sam recently said that when he had packed lunches at school he thought we were poor because he didn’t have crisps and Petits Filous (how much sugar is in those? And people use them as baby food!!)
I don’t mind cooking meat, I try and source it locally and used to say it was a happy chicken or pig until Sam told me it wasn’t happy, it was dead. The household is pretty much veggie except at Christmas and Charlie has the odd bacon butty. I started to eat fish again a couple of years ago just to try and get some more protein into my diet. I eat it maybe once every six weeks because if I think about it too much I just don’t like the thought of it. It just gives me another option if we’re out.

Christmas Day turkey, chorizo and stuffing pie.
Recently we’ve been going back to brown rice and pasta as we had gone a bit white in this house. But when I went to buy pasta there were only two wholewheat types and years ago there used to be lots.
The kids have all worked in pub kitchens and have cooked at home so they are all pretty good cooks – Ella is the best baker, Joe eats meat and can do anything from extravagant sea bass to a cheap cut of beef depending on where he is in his Student Loan cycle, Sam is the veggie curry king and Charlie can knock up a great omelette or mushrooms on toast and is really interested in flavours (I didn’t like his cinnamon phase I have to say!) They have over the years said that friends don’t know how to cook; someone asked Joe if it was ok to eat a banana with brown skin and Sam knows someone who has never made an omelette.

Schools are trying and there are various Healthy School agendas - Bath and North East Somerset have a lovely video about children growing and eating their own produce.

Ella's homemade salads and pizza
Which brings me back to the sugar programme. If parents don’t know what they are actually feeding their kids and children don’t learn how to cook from scratch and people think it is ok to drink sugary drinks everyday and let children have a big choice over what they eat then I’m really not sure where we’re going. We generally need to bring people back down to earth and connected with their food. I’ll be out shooting hares like my Granddad before you know it!
If you’ve got little ones, cook with them, eat a rainbow of foods, make food look beautiful, don’t snack on crap, drink water and sit down and eat with them. Use that time to chat about their day. We used to play ‘What was your best thing today?’ and go round the table asking each other which was always a starting point for a conversation. Make meal times a social time; take the emphasis off the food and make it about the people you're with.
If you make a big deal out of food or use it as a reward it becomes entangled with emotion (that's probably a whole BLOG on it's own!) and that doesn’t lead to a good relationship with it. Make it about the people and the food is just fuel for life.


  1. Lovely post. I'm sure there's research out there to prove that if you offer kids a wide range of real food, they automatically select a balanced diet and they grow into a healthy weight.

    1. I think I remember reading some once - will find out!

  2. I so agree with all of this and am proud to be fairly disconnected from most fast and processed food. We called in at a McDonalds once out of desperation after a long emotional journey (long story) and we just needed anything to eat. After struggling with the jargon 'yes we do want a meal- that's why we are here' 'But do you want a "meal"?' we eventually left with food including 3 'happy meals' for the children. Reaching home, I bunged all the food still in their bags into the oven on a low heat to keep warm whilst we unloaded the car.. We were all completely baffled when the children opened their 'happy meals' to find melted dalmatian toys glued to their rather 'unhappy' meals.We've never gone back!

    1. I love it! I had a massive argument with a Macdonald's manager once. The kids wanted to know what it was all about so I took them and asked for veggie burgers in a happy meal box which they flatly refused to do. I offered to pay the extra for the toys, the lot. But there was no way they were budging and at that point I said I'd never go in there again. I did go back last year (about 17 yrs since last time) as a quick 'grab something' with eldest. I only had salty fries couldn't bring myself to have anything else!