I’m really glad Mr Balls is expecting parents to take responsibility for cooking with their children to help avoid obesity.

“I’ve always been clear that the onus to pass on cooking skills should not just fall on teachers. The fact is that if parents never prepare or eat meals together, then we risk children growing up uninterested in cooking or living healthily.” (Mr Balls, yesterday.)

I have often complained that the knee-jerk reaction to so many problems today is “teach them it in school” or “let the schools deal with it”, without looking at the wider picture.

Personally, I am blessed with a job that I can do at home and can fit around the children, so I can find time to cook fresh meals most of the time (I’m no saint – we have fish fingers often enough) and we don’t rely on ready-made meals. I’ve found that it doesn’t add to the shopping bill – on the contrary, it is much cheaper. If we have a week when I buy pizzas or quiche for speed’s sake, my bill rockets. We also find that having a supermarket or take-away curry no longer tastes so good – it is not the treat it used to be, as we have got used to the taste of quality, fresh food.

Not long ago, my daughter, Milly, was struggling with maths. One of the suggestions her teacher made was to cook more with her and make her read the scales/say how many more grams were needed/say if we had too much or not enough etc. Doing this real-life maths has really helped her skills and has also been fun. Hopefully, in a few years she’ll love it so much that I’ll never have to cook again, though I doubt it – I suspect she’ll be keen to make the things like chocolate brownies and flapjacks, but the spag bol won’t be of interest!

So I can’t recommend cooking with children enough.

But, just in case Mr Balls is listening, I will call once again for the government to go further with their plans for healthy living and to look at the ingredients manufacturers are allowed to put in their food, at how they can label food to make it look healthy when it isn’t, to educate people to know that low fat often means high sugar, and to ban advertising to children.

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