Learning to eat

Forecasts are circulating on the internet which predict that every second adult will suffer from obesity in 40 years. Having taken a look at the playgrounds and schoolyards in neighbourhoods which are not necessarily the best but certainly common, one might suspect: this could happen.

But it doesn’t have to. Because if one looks for the causes, one finds one primary reason beyond the oft-quoted lack of exercise and the constant advertisement of unhealthy or denatured food: a lack of information.
This would seem to be the right time to establish “nutrition” as its own, standard school subject. Completely free from dry health-food presentations, but instead full of useful information and experiences. But above all: not limited to private schools or alternative school and education models, but as a subject for the entire public school sector. Thus for everybody and everyone. Ideally starting in grade one.
The good selection of stores and supermarkets, reading labels, understanding and interpreting ingredients, evaluating fresh wares, assessing prices … all of this has to be learned. Because: there is no deliberate nutrition without deliberate shopping.
Then it follows: What effect does eating and drinking actually have on my body? Why do carrots have an effect similar to sunmilk? Why is too much sugar bad? And why does too much fat make you sick? Or the other way around: What tangible benefits do I get from eating fruit or vegetables (other than that they taste good)? By the way: Imagine that every child in the country has the chance to sample the healthy life, to find out how good it can taste. Regardless of where it comes from or what is eaten at home. (Tasting is an experience and therefore is probably much more convincing than every theoretical argument, no matter how well it is presented.)
And what would also be good: learn to cook. Movements, techniques, ingredients and direction… here everything must be tried as well. Cooking, therefore. To this end functional kitchens should be in the schools, similar to the computer labs. And cooks should become teachers! On that note: Why are certain foods only available at certain times and in certain countries? Why does it make sense (and why is it fun) to consume those foods at that particular time and place? What does it mean when a strawberry is flown in from Israel? And what is the difference between a greenhouse and nature? Or is there no difference?
And visits to restaurants? Can one learn that? At the very least one could convey the principle of diversity. The new top-100 list of the largest gastronomical establishments in Germany consists almost entirely of fast food restaurants and snack bars. While the rest of the gastronomical sector is flagging, the sales volume of the hundred largest fast food restaurants and snack bars grew by 7.6 percent (the best result since 1995). On the other hand Slow Food, the international movement to protect the right to enjoyment, is growing and offers a contrast to culinary impoverishment. How many children know about it by now?
A chapter on “The Business of Nutrition” would also be interesting: The food industry is huge. It ensures the supply of basic provisions, invents new products on a daily basis, is an employer, receives tax money and experiences its own scandals on a regular basis. It wouldn’t hurt to know what the overall structures of the business are like. And what roll children and youth play in the whole thing.
In addition, short expeditions into popular science could make the subject of “nutrition” a light-bulb moment. To, for example, understand how one can seriously write a whole chapter in a book about the preparation of a fried egg. Or to try if one can make lemonade oneself and also have it taste good.
And not at least: the cultural significance of nutrition. Why do the Germans often eat potatoes, and the Lebanese eat chickpeas? Are kebabs really the national Turkish dish? Why don’t Muslims eat pork? Topics for many years. Sometimes profound – sometimes just yummy. With a little bit of imagination one can imagine that it is not only the little bodies that develop well, but also the corresponding minds. Incidentally, the costs for malnutrition and nutrition-related diseases is estimated to approx. 71 billion euros per year. That is 1/3 of all health care costs, and the trend is increasing. And since WHO (the World Health Organization) also states that there are around one billion severely obese people and that every fifth child is too fat, politicians have also reacted and have been calling for education on nutrition in state schools. There are a lot of indications that having “nutrition” as a regular school subject is fundamentally not being questioned anymore. It is only a matter of time.