Obesity could be stopped if kids were taught to cook in school, says Rachel
Celebrity chef Rachel Allen has called for schools to bring in compulsory cooking classes to help battle childhood obesity.
She insists that basic cookery and nutrition education in the classroom could be an invaluable life lesson that will save future generations from chronic ill health.
Our children have never been fatter or more physically inactive.
Four out of five children in the Republic are not meeting the recommended amount of physical activity for school-aged children of at least 60 minutes per day and one in four children are overweight or obese.
Research published by Safefood Ireland says that many children in this country do not meet the dietary recommendations for fruit and vegetables, saturated fat or sugar.
They found that 20pc of the energy intake from a child's diet comes from sugary drinks, biscuits, confectionery, chocolate and cake.
Sunday Independent writer Rachel says she can't believe that youngsters are not taught kitchen skills in the classroom.
"Should they be taught in school? Absolutely," she said.
"I cannot understand how the link [with childhood obesity] hasn't been made. It's obvious.
"What we put into our body and what we expel energy-wise will lead to our overall physical health, or a lot of it.
"We are like cars - what we put in has an impact on how we perform. We are what we eat."
Her view is backed up by scientific research.
Safefood says lack of physical activity, bad diets and obesity can lead to health problems in the young, including problems with bone health, breathing difficulties as well as psychological issues.
Overweight and obese children are far more likely to become overweight or obese adults and the long-term health impact can include cancer, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
"It's extraordinary that there are now less and less kitchens in schools where pupils can learn how to cook," says Rachel.
"It's the most basic life-skill of all, to be able to feed yourself.
"And I think it's such a pity that more emphasis isn't put on that.
"I think it should be obligatory that every child learns in school how to cook for themselves because so many aren't learning at home.
"And unfortunately, in an age where so much processed food has become so cheap, many people don't see an alternative.
"And that's of course adding to obesity."
The 45-year-old mother of three said youngsters should be introduced to cooking in a limited way in primary school. But, by secondary school, everyone should be learning.
She added that she and other parents have volunteered to teach a little cooking in the local school.
"My daughter is eight and she is really keen and I let her use the hot pan and hob because she knows the danger of heat and I am there to watch her and supervise her.
"But you have to let them try and she is now at the stage where she wants to follow a recipe for herself.
"But then it should get more serious at senior school. Every child should know how to make soup or a simple casserole or bread.
"You do see children who do not know what vegetables look like. Or they will see maybe muddy vegetables and they go 'Yucky, it's dirty'."
The TV star was talking at the launch of the new season of TV3's The Restaurant which she is joining as a critic with Marco Pierre White.