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The Afternoon Show
The Afternoon ShowRTÉ One, Weekdays, 4.00pm

Healthy Kid's Menus - Healthy Cookery Classes for Children

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Victoria Mackechnie realised that children's diets were full of preservatives and fats. She came up with the idea to teach children how to cook tasty meals for themselves from healthy ingredients. In December 2008 Victoria set up 'Kids in the Kitchen' to provide cookery classes to primary schools children. Classes typically run once per week over a course of 6-10 weeks.

National Statistics:

. 11.6% of Irish girls aged 5-12 are overweight while 13% are obese.
. 10.5% of Irish boys aged 5-12 years are overweight while 9.2% are obese.
. 40% of Irish children exceed the recommended maximum of energy intake from fat.
. 61% of children did not consume enough fibre.

Guidelines GDA's for Children aged 5 - 10:

. 1800 calories
. 85g sugar
. 70g fat - of which 20g saturated fat
. 4g salt

Richie Wilson

The Afternoon Show's Chef Richie Wilson worked with Paula on the four regional restaurant's menus and based on her guidelines changed the dishes ingredients and cooking practices for the chefs. He presented the new ingredients and ways of cooking the 4 dishes to the 4 chefs during a cook along. They prepared their dish with Richie's advice, and he prepared a wild card dish which is common in the restaurant's menus. Richie visited Victoria's cookery classes for kids.

Richie you visited St. Michael's Junior School in Ballsbridge, to take part in their healthy cookery classes, what is the idea behind the healthy cookery classes?

Victoria runs cookery classes for 4th, 5th and 6th classes in St. Michael's school; there are about 60 boys in the year and 20 have signed up. Victoria worked in a cookery school and ran classes for 5-8 year olds in Australia. As she mentioned in the VT, she realised that children's diets were full of preservatives and fats. On her return to Ireland she came up with the idea to teach primary school children basic cooking skills for healthy meals.

How do the classes' suit kids?

Victoria also teaches cookery to children as young as five, it is oven based and no knives are allowed. The classes suits kids because it is creative; they get to see the dish transformed at the end of the cooking, and then eat them. It gets children used to putting fruit and vegetables into meals. She also has introduced kids to ethnic cooking and they love adding spice to the dishes.

What do the children bring with them to participate in the cooking classes?

Victoria brings in the hobs and the children are divided into 4-5 groups in an ordinary classroom, in some schools she has the use of the kitchen from the secondary part of the school. The children of St. Michael's bring their own apron, lunch box and folder for their recipes.

What did you think of the classes?

It was fantastic to see the kids learning how to cook with healthy ingredients, using vegetables, ethnic ingredients and then cooking the dishes at home.

How did the boy's react to the cookery classes?

The reaction from the children was very positive; they love the hands on aspect to the cooking, and seeing the food being transformed when cooked. Mostly they love eating it. They are meant to bring it home; but most of them have already eaten it in class.

You said on the it would be great to see cookery classes for kids rolled out nationwide?

Yes it would be fantastic, to get schools on board and have kids learning how to cook healthy dishes. It is such a straight forward idea and the kids really enjoyed it. We have had a great response from our viewers around the country who have told us healthy cookery classes for children that are already taking place.

Some classes are taking place in crèches, others at kid's birthday parties and others in schools. They are all addressing children's attitudes to food from a young age, and introducing them to food using a process that appeals to the children's sense of taste, sight, and touch as well as taste.

What tips do you have to get children into cooking healthy food?

Start children with easy to cook food first, that they will enjoy making, is finished quite quickly and ready to eat - for example rice krispies cakes, toasted sandwiches, ginger bread.

Allow children to help while you are cooking or baking, they can make something with the trimmings from the pastry or they can cut shapes out of it. They can cut vegetables for adinner dish, like mushrooms and then add them to the dish.

Prepare all ingredients well in advance, so everything is out of its wrapper and ready to be used.Talk to them about the ingredients you are cooking, so it is not a surprise when they come to eat it.

Cook with children when you have plenty of time, keep it fun, don't focus on which food is good for you. Soups are great for children to learn to make, it doesn't matter how they are cut because they go into a blender.


Introduce children to books with stories about their favourite characters cooking or eating food. Most importantly meal time should be a happy time and the experts advice is to always praise children for eating their food.

If any restaurants out there would like to be part of our campaign please send in your kid's menus now, or if you would like to nominate restaurants which have healthy menus please send in your nomination and a sample of their menu.

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