Teaching children to cook is the most important lesson in life

By Prue Leith, patron of Let’s Get Cooking

Teaching a child to cook is as important as teaching them to read and write. It sounds simple because it is simple. So then why are so many children growing up not knowing how to cook? Why do we have young adults leaving our schools and colleges without even the basic knowledge to be able to feed themselves a healthy and nutritious diet?

The evidence proves that children who don’t eat well are at a considerable disadvantage at school and are more likely to suffer serious health issues in adulthood. But we’re still expecting our children to live on diets full of junk and yet be able to concentrate, retain knowledge, pass exams and live long, healthy and successful lives.

The link between good food and children reaching their potential is clear. Knowing this, we should all take on the responsibility for making sure our children have the best possible start in life. I have three little grandchildren and I would hate it if they grew up not knowing how to cook. Luckily that won’t happen, but for so very many children cooking will never be a part of their lives. When we learn how to cook only then do we know the real pleasure of putting ingredients together in a pan, of adding a bit of this and some of that to make a meal that tastes delicious. Instead, our children will be reliant on ready meals, takeaways and what is basically junk food, and that is dangerous.

Our Let’s Get Cooking clubs are filling a gap but we need to have more clubs. I think every single school should have a cookery club and every single child should learn to cook. If you have children and they’re not learning to cook in school then you should be knocking on the principal’s door and asking why not. If there were no lessons in maths or English at school you’d jolly well want to know why not. Well, cookery should be no different.

Advertising conditions children to want food that is full of salt, sugar and fat. The government is starting to listen. The tax on sugary drinks, due to become law in April 2018, sends a clear message that too much sugar should be avoided and we welcome that.

But I won’t be fully satisfied until we have a generation of children taught to understand that fruit and vegetables, or a beautifully cooked roast dinner or a bowl of pasta or a curry made from scratch are just as tasty and so much better for them than junk in a box.

Watch our video of Prue cooking with children