Cecilia has more than 10 years’ experience in community development, public health and nutrition. Over the years, she has been involved in lots of charitable initiatives including the MEND programme with NHS-Lambeth, the Marylebone Project with the Church Army and The Healthy Gourmet Café at Lambeth College, in Clapham.
When Cecilia isn’t organising classes for vulnerable and underprivileged people, she works as a Community Training Manager in the catering industry. When she has a spare moment, she is a keen fan of spinning, yoga, swimming, photography and architecture.
Cecilia founded The Mini Cooking Club because she was worried people didn’t know enough about the benefits of a balanced diet.
“There has been an extraordinary increase of obesity in the UK, particularly in young children. Unfortunately, the recession is making things worse as people increasingly turn to cheaper, processed foods and take-outs.
“Some of the council-led initiatives set up to tackle this problem don’t offer hands-on, practical work with the community. In 2009 I really felt it was time to do something by offering cookery classes to local people.
“The Mini Cooking Club is a charity run by 15 volunteer staff that aims to educate people about the benefits of a balanced, nutritious diet, and to discourage the consumption of processed foods with high levels of sugar, fat, salt and additives.
“It’s also about bringing people together to enjoy food and have fun, whatever their age and background.”
The Mini Cooking Club regularly runs cooking classes at the Copleston Centre in Peckham to educate people about food.
“We run different sessions for children, families, pregnant women and people with mental health concerns or learning difficulties.
“The classes offer our guests the chance to learn basic skills for home cooking, the nutritional knowledge needed to make healthier dishes, and cooking secrets and techniques first-hand, under the supervision of a trained chef.
“Normally, we make one savoury and sweet option per class. After the session, we all sit down around the table and eat together, sharing our food as a community. It’s a lot of fun, particularly for kids”.
Cecilia is passionate about helping people achieve a balanced diet.
“The prevalence of obesity in England has more than doubled in the last 25 years. By 2050, obesity is predicted to affect 60% of adult men, 50% of adult women and 25% of children.
“By gaining cooking skills and nutrition knowledge, people can make better food choices, which leads to them living longer, healthier and happier lives.”
The Mini Cooking Club runs special courses for pregnant women, kids and people with learning difficulties. Cecilia believes there are major benefits for all these groups.
“A good diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle at any time, but is especially vital during pregnancy. A nutritional diet will prepare a woman’s body and mind for childbirth and ensure their baby has the best possible start to life.
“Our Creative Therapies Project (CTP) helps people with acute mental health issues cook healthier food, learn about nutrition and socialise with others in the community. Despite their problems, the CTP has helped these individuals gain confidence in the kitchen and integrate better with others through sharing their cooking and experiences in the community.
“Cooking activities in early childhood help develop a child’s perception of food and help influence people to choose homemade meals. This can also promote the social, emotional, physical, cognitive, and linguistic development of a child.”
A healthy diet is a big part of a healthy lifestyle, but it can also keep the cost of your average weekly food shop down. Here are Cecilia’s top tips on how to plan a more balanced diet for you and your family, which might just help you save a penny or two.
1) Plan Meals on a Weekly Basis
“By planning ahead using a schedule or calendar, you can make sure you include a good balance of different food types. This also makes your weekly shop a lot easier and you’ll be less likely to overspend at the supermarket.
“Planning a week ahead also reduces the temptation to eat out.”
2) Cook at the Weekend for Later in the Week
“This is a both a money and time-saver. Cook up big batches of healthy meals when you’re free on Saturday or Sunday, divide into plastic containers, and then freeze.
“This helps take the stress out of busy weeknights. Simply heat up your healthy grub while getting on with other things.”
3) Shop in bulk
“Bulk-buying healthy food is a great way to save money. Single portions tend to be more expensive and purchasing in large quantities means you’ll definitely avoid those dreaded ready meals.”
4) Buy Local & Seasonal Food
“When produce is in season locally, the relative abundance of the crop usually makes it less expensive. It’s definitely worth finding out what foods are grown near you.
“Your local market is the perfect place to find fresh, quality produce. Normally most of the products on sale will have been grown, caught, brewed, pickled, baked or processed by the stallholder. It’s the ideal place to find great deals on healthy food.”
5) Make Exciting Healthy Meals
“Some people struggle to think of interesting things to do with healthy food, but there are actually loads of exciting meals that can be created to suit a balanced diet.
“Researching new recipes is a great way to keep things exciting. Social media sites like Pinterest and Twitter are full of suggestions and are a great place to find inspiration.
“Experimenting with your cooking at home is important too. Keep practising, having fun and sharing your passion for food with as many people as possible.”
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