GET Voice of Ireland coach Kian Egan talking about nutrition and he is an inspiration.
Not only does the father of two do all the cooking at home, he is passionate about healthy eating for children and he’s an ardent supporter of a sugar tax.
He’s right behind celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s campaign to get ministers in Britain to be “big and bold” and put a tax on sugar.
“We should do that here too, without a shadow of a doubt,” he tells Feelgood, explaining that he was shocked to see the amount of sugar in children’s soft drinks.
Just one of them could make up a child’s entire daily recommended intake of sugar, he says.
However, Kian and wife Jodi Albert are much happier to focus on the positive side of food. That’s why they jumped at the chance to get behind Ben’s Beginners, a programme that encourages parents to cook with their children to help nurture a lifelong love of wholesome food.
The former Westlife singer and his son Koa (who will be four in December) are great kitchen buddies.
“We have great fun,” he says. “In the morning, he stirs the porridge and puts the strawberries in it. At dinner, if I say we are having chicken, veg and rice, he’ll go to the fridge and pull out the ginger and garlic and red onion.”
He laughs that his three-year-old son even knows what those things are and that the little foodie insists his avocado is on wholegrain toast rather than white.
“When I went to London first, I didn’t even know what an avocado was. I remember seeing raw tuna and thinking you must be mad in the head to eat that, but I love it now,” he says.
Like many of us, his childhood was fuelled by that great Irish staple, ‘meat and two veg’, though, unlike many of his contemporaries, he did study home economics so had a few reliables, such as lasagne and spaghetti Bolognese, on his home menu.
Now he’s comfortable to rustle up anything from a Thai dish to a good Sunday roast and he makes healthy homemade snacks, too (banana and peanut-butter bites are a favourite).
Having children of his own — Koa and Zeke, who was born in May — really sharpened his focus on nutrition as he felt responsible for making sure another human being was getting the right vitamins and minerals to be healthy.
Getting children involved in cooking is an excellent way to ensure they will be able to cook healthy meals for themselves. “If they know how to cook, they will be healthy, so get cooking with your kids,” he says.
The evidence backs him up. Cooking together is one of the best ways for children to build a good relationship with the food they eat, according to a new study by Ignite Research. The poll, which was carried out last month, also found that children are more than happy to put on their aprons.
Nine out of ten children said they would like to cook with their parents more often, though 64% of parents said time pressure often forced them to do it themselves.
Now, help is at hand. For the next five weeks, the Cook Along with Ben’s Beginners will run Facebook sessions every Wednesday, between 6pm and 7pm, to show parents how they can get their children more involved in the kitchen.
Guest chefs, including twins David and Stephen Flynn from the Happy Pear and Gary O’Hanlon of TV3’s The Restaurant, will be online to answer any of your questions on Facebook.
Gary says: “The kitchen is a fascinating place for children and there are loads of ways you can encourage them to take part. Younger children can wash ingredients, pick fresh herbs, and stir ingredients. Children from six onwards can also measure ingredients and grate ingredients under supervision.
“All of this adds up to a sense of ‘kitchen togetherness’ that is enjoyable for parents and helps instill an essential life skill that will benefit children throughout their life.”
Better still, if you cook up a storm and share the results on Facebook, you’re in with a chance to win €1,000 each week.
For more, see www.facebook.com/unclebensireland
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved