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“Meals which parents make at home for their baby or toddler are often less healthy and more likely to lead to their child gaining weight than shop-bought ones,” according to a report in The Guardian.

When I saw the headline I nearly fell off my chair. How can processed, mass produced food be healthier than fresh ingredients?

The article reports how researchers at Aberdeen University studied 278 ready-made savoury meals aimed at children under the age of five and 408 home-cooked meals from 55 cookbooks aimed specifically at infants and young children, finding that nutritionally there were pros and cons with both types of meals.

“Home-cooked recipes contained 51% more energy than commercial products [and] contained higher carbohydrate, salt, protein, total fat and saturated fat compared with their commercial counterparts providing 7%-200% more nutrients”, said the study which was published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood medical journal.

Is this really the case? It is scary if it is!

“If anything, the study does call into question the value of ‘expert’ infant recipe books over pre-prepared meals or ordinary home cooking,” said Julian Hamilton-Shield, professor of diabetes and metabolic endocrinology at Bristol University.

Eating REAL food is critical to health

In 2008, based on a British initiative from Second World War, Jamie Oliver launched his Ministry of Food campaign. The original scheme, from the British government, set up a national network of food advisors and cooking teachers to educate the public about food and nutrition so they would be able to feed themselves properly with the rations available.

Jamie’s initiate was an updated version of this to teach more people how to cook from scratch and turn all sorts of fresh ingredients into meals when they’re in season, at their best and at their cheapest… AND IT WORKS!

A new study by academics at Leeds University found that attending one of Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food cooking courses can help improve your diet, with researchers finding that people who took the course halved the amount of snacks they ate, increased the number of fruit and vegetables and became more confident about cooking a meal from scratch.

The number of fruit and vegetable portions people ate rose from an average of 2.7 a day to 4.1 six months after the course, according to a paper in the journal Public Health Nutrition. Snacks fell from two to 1.1 over the same period.

Professor Janet Cade, a nutritional epidemiologist who took part in the research, said: “These positive changes emerged immediately following the course and had increased further by six months after the course.”

Jamie Oliver said “This important study shows that teaching people to cook really works and really does make a huge difference.”

I couldn’t agree more.

The best and most simple dietary advice I’ve ever seen comes from Michael Pollan’s New York Times Bestseller, In Defence of Food. In the introduction to the book, he perfectly summarises my beliefs about healthy nutrition in just seven words: Eat (real) food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Note: I added the word ‘real’ to make it clear that healthy nutrition is about food made from basic ingredients and not the many ‘food-like’ products found on supermarket shelves.

Sources:

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