The Cook Smart Eat Well course provides a combination of healthy eating advice and practical food preparation skills for clients using the Matthew Tree Project (TMTP) FOOD PLUS centres or those booked directly via our network of referral agencies.
It is run for TMTP by professional staff including Beverley Campbell, an experienced Food Technology Teacher, Sue Baic, a Registered Dietitian and Sandy Johnson, a Public Health Nutritionist. (1)
The course is open to anyone who would like to improve their knowledge of healthy eating, brush up on or learn new cookery skills and reduce food waste. It can also help clients to use ingredients from the FOOD PLUS centre. On completion of the course clients receive a certificate of attendance and have access to a range of healthy recipes via the Food Inside Out website and receive a free copy of TMTP Food Tips Booklet (value £4.99).
Research suggests what we eat affects not only physical health but mental health and behaviour including mood, concentration and even how we react to stress. Research has shown that people often choose poor diets which could adversely affect behaviour despite the availability of healthy choices. (2) Unsurprisingly poor dietary intakes are often associated with a lack of knowledge, skills and motivation around healthy eating, shopping and cooking. (3-4)
The overall aim of the course is to deliver interesting and interactive sessions which provide clients with the knowledge and skills to follow a healthier diet. The course is delivered by a friendly team and provides tasty, practical and inexpensive ideas for healthy meals and snacks. All recipes are easy to cook and provide a good alternative to expensive fatty and salty ready meals or takeaways. The sessions are interactive, informative and clients have plenty of chance to ask questions or share ideas.
Course content is based on the Eat Well Plate model to explore the principles of a healthy diet and how this can be put into practice on a budget with limited facilities. (5) Clients are encouraged to consider how their own diet compares with healthy eating guidelines and explore ways they could improve it by setting personal goals.
Clients have chance to put the information into practice with a range of easy, affordable and healthy recipes which use minimal amounts of low cost equipment. The food cooked at the course is either eaten together at the end of the session or taken home to share with the family.
In addition the course covers the principles and practice of shopping for healthy foods on a budget and encourages clients to examine their own shopping habits and use front of pack nutrition labels to identify healthy foods they might buy next time they are shopping.
The course also covers ways to reduce household food waste for both money saving and environmental reasons. This helps clients on low income to get more out of the food they buy by altering their shopping habits and budgeting skills and influencing behaviour change. We focus on the Love Food Hate Waste Save More programme (6) five key food waste prevention behaviours:
- Planning meals + shopping including use of less perishable foods (frozen and tinned)
- Understanding date labels
- Correct food storage
- Use of leftovers/forgotten foods
At the end of the cookery course each student is given a good quality piece of kitchen equipment of their choice from a hand blender, frying pan or wok and a ‘TMTP Tips & Ideas for FOOD PLUS Cooking’ booklet specifically designed to support our clients in eating more healthily and more economically.
Evaluation assesses whether the course is perceived as enjoyable, interesting and useful. Measures are used to assess whether participation increases knowledge and skills around healthy eating, shopping, reducing food waste and cooking before and after the course. Participants are also asked about changes made to diet during the course and their intentions to eat a healthier diet in future as well as suggestions for adaptations to the course. Data is collected using a questionnaire and by open ended questions and comments. An evaluation report is provided to the funding body at the end of each series of courses.
1. Food Inside Out http://www.foodinsideout.org.uk/ (accessed November 2014)
2. Eves A & Gesch CB (2003) Food provision and the nutritional implications of food choices made by young adult males in a young offender’s institution. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics 16:167-179
3. Larson, N Perry C Story M and Neumark-Sztainer D (2006) Food Preparation by young adults is associated with better diet quality. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 106 2001-2007
4. Van der Horst, K Brunner T and Siegrist M (2011) Ready meal consumption: associations with weight status and cooking skills. Public Health Nutrition 14:239-45
5. The Eat Well Plate. NHS Choices. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/eatwell-plate.aspx ( accessed November 2014)
6. Love Food Hate Waste http://england.lovefoodhatewaste.com/content/love-food-hate-waste-save-more-pack-run-sessions-your-community ( Accessed November 2014)