Nutrition tuition;Books

7th May 1999 at 01:00
THE FOOD OUR CHILDREN EAT. By Joanna Blythman. Fourth Estate pound;8.99.

You'll have heard Joanna Blythman on the radio. She's usually giving some smarmy supermarket PR a well-deserved piece of her mind in a fulsome Scots brogue.

She enjoys food, you see - reckons it should be good and fresh and tasty. Read her recipe for spare ribs and you'll quickly see that this is no grim-faced ascetic who would confine us all to lentils and aduki beans. At the same time, you'll understand why she is so angry about the way we feed our children, at home and at school.

The heart of the problem, she says, is a recent and mistaken belief that children need a special diet - something called "children's food". This consists of "a small selection of highly processed, long-life foods - many technological interventions removed from their raw-food roots - heavily loaded with fat, sugar and salt".

This is, she points out, a radical departure from the tried-and-tested way children have been nourished for millennia. "We are embarked on an experiment with our children's health that is unprecedented," she says. "Instead of being the best food available, children are being given the worst."

Even the best-intentioned parents simply reach for another packet of turkey dinosaurs in the hope that, at some future date, their children will metamorphose from crisp-munching, pop-sucking pupae into ready-formed lovers of real food.

Her book is something of a manual, full of inspiration and information, and just enough fulmination to keep the reader's enthusiasm on the boil. "Empowering," is how she describes it.

The most encouraging thing she can say about school dinners is that most are so foul that children prefer not to eat them. But while packed lunches are the best bet at primary school, serious dangers lurk in many secondaries where, for financial reasons, all the evils of the fast-food joint have entered the dining hall.

Her novel solution is for parents to introduce older children to the better-quality eateries in the school environs (taking precautions to preserve their street cred). Meanwhile, she suggests, canvass other parents, lobby the local education authority and get the burgers banished from what, after all, should be a place of education.

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