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Cooking For A Better Start changed our lives

31 August 2021

Mum of two young children, Mariyam Ali, completed HENRY’s online Cooking For A Better Start course and said the sessions changed her life. Thanks to everything that she has learned, her whole family’s eating habits have improved.

Mariyam’s Story

I take my children to Thornbury Tots, which is a Parents in the Lead funded playgroup. At one of the sessions there was an opportunity to sign up to Better Start Bradford’s Cooking For A Better Start online course. I had been looking for a way to improve our eating habits and making more creative healthier meals for my young children, so I added my details to the ‘sign-up’ form.

The Cooking For A Better Start team contacted me and I was provided with a toolkit and a series of videos to work through in my own time. This was ideal for me as I do work so it meant that I had the flexibility to do it at my own pace. Initially, I must admit it was quite challenging to get motivated to start the sessions, but I was so glad I did. I was able to get my husband involved and he worked through some of the content with me. I was also called by one of the members of the team after every couple of sessions to have a chat and catch up to see whether there was anything I needed support with.

There were six online sessions to work through in total and I learned so much. There were lots of different recipes and healthy alternatives to the junk food that we would eat. I learned about food safety in the kitchen and how to store food safely – for example I thought you could keep rice for days in the fridge, but through the course I found out that rice should only be kept for 24 hours in the fridge at the most.

I also learned how to read labels on food items at the supermarket. It really shocked me how much sugar is in the yoghurts and cereals that I used to buy for my children. I now buy plain yoghurt and make porridge and add fruit or honey – the kids absolutely love it and my daughter even helps me to measure out the porridge. I also add water to fresh fruit juice rather than using the concentrated cordials I used to.

I learned about portion sizes and all the different food groups, such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats and how you don’t have to plan every meal around the food wheel – you can actually balance it over a couple of days.

At home we have cooked all the recipes and one of our favourites are the oat and banana biscuits. We also love the chicken goujons, which I have modified to make into smaller nuggets, but they are such a great healthier alternative to the frozen processed ones I used to buy.

My four-year-old daughter starts reception in September and I can now confidently make her a wide variety of packed lunches with lots of healthy creative choices that she loves. My children used to have a lot of sugary cereals and treats, but now we have swapped these for healthier porridge and home-made versions. I have also noticed that since I introduced this, they seem to be sleeping a lot better.

I feel so lucky that I have been able to do the Cooking For A Better Start course. I was so worried that my children weren’t getting all the nutrients that they need, but now I know they are. I thought it would be difficult to change our cooking and eating habits, but it’s not just about buying healthy fruit every day – you just need to know what the healthier alternatives are. It’s all about making those small changes that lead to a big difference.

*Please note that the image used with this piece has been provided by the team at HENRY and represents the Cooking For A Better Start programme, when delivered face-to-face. It does not feature the family represented in this story.

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