Blame it on the microwave, says food expert

School dinners must have "child appeal" to win the war against unhealthy eating. That's according to dietician Jenny Jones, who knows the problems of getting children to eat greens after bringing up two lads who are not keen on sprouts. However, she has the perfect two-course meal for children whose first choice would be a soggy plate of chips: chicken casserole and peas followed by fruit and ice cream. "This meal has child appeal with the required nutritional content," she said. "Mashed potato has the same effect."

Jenny, 47, a member of Caerphilly local public health team based at Ystrad Mynach hospital, admits there is no easy way of converting children weaned on junk to healthy alternatives.

However, she believes early years education is the way forward. And that no parent should let their child leave for school without a good breakfast.

She is full of praise for the Assembly government's free breakfast initiative, which has 353 primaries on board with another 184 due to join this term.

But she also aware schools cannot have complete control of what pupils bring in to eat. She advises parents to always fill a ham sandwich with some cucumber or tomato.

The healthy eating expert, a member of the Assembly government's food in schools working group, puts rising obesity rates down to the "microwave generation". She believes we have forgotten how to cook.

Her solution is to keep it simple to save time. Meat or fish with two veg need not be time-consuming to cook. And children should not be denied a chocolate treat sometimes, so long as sweets don't substitute for fruit or veg.

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