The group CHAMP (Children, Healthy and Active! Multi-agency Programme) conducted a cooking session last week for young children, and accompanied guardians, resulting in smiling faces and unusually shaped pizzas.
GHA nutritionists and dieticians in conjunction with the Health Promotion team (Department of Public Health) collaborate to make these cooking session happen, under the sponsorship of locally owned shop Eroski.
This was the second cooking session, which is aimed at children between the ages of 8-12, with the first one having taken place last October. The session takes three and a half hours, with a half hour dedicated to food hygiene.
Charles Russo, a GHA dietician, said, “we decided to do these cooking events to help children learn how to cook from scratch and also so they do not demonise foods that we would normally associate as unhealthy.”
“For example, what we are cooking today is pizza.”
He explains that the type of pizza you eat, the amount of pizza and the type of base can be unhealthy, but that pizza in itself is not an unhealthy food. Making it from scratch gives people the ability to control how much ingredients such as salt is used and also ensures no preservatives are used.
“The other thing we want relates to the toppings that go on top, to make sure that they [the children] select healthier options,” said Mr Russo.
“Foods with more nutritional value basically,” he added.
The toppings being used at the cooking class was ham, sweetcorn, egg, mushrooms, red and green peppers, onions and tomatoes.
“Food is food at the end of the day but some have more nutritional value than others and what we are trying to do is steer them towards the ones that have more nutritional value and at the same time are less energy dense,” said Mr Russo.
“Ideally, they can still eat healthy without thinking they are going to be gaining weight and demonising pizzas and other foods is not the problem,” he added.
Normally society classes pizza as junk food.
“Foods we class as unhealthy can be prepare in a healthy way, using low calorie ingredients, emphasising portion sizes and also teaching them that you can control your calorie intake and ensure the foods you have are of good nutritional value by teaching them to prepare everything from scratch,” he said.
The pizzas were made in the shape of hearts, bows and the traditional round.
Mr Russo also expressed that learning how to cook gives children confidence and that with forward planning the cooking of some meals do not have to be as time consuming as people perceive.
The children also learned how to prepare a dessert of fruit and custard, which was low in both calories and sugar.
This too was made from scratch.
Carrying out the food and safety handling section of the session was Ilan Williamson from the environmental agency.
“The idea of this was to be more holistic in our approach as we believed that some of the important information taught during this presentation would later be put into practice during the cooking session. For example, hand washing, sorting cooked and raw foods in the fridge etc,” said Mr Russo.
During the session the children also played a blindfolded tasting game to expose children to foods they may not have tried before.
At the end of the session the children received a CHAMPs certificate for attending and they got to take the food they had prepared home.
Pics by Johnny Bugeja