Website and cookbook set children on lifetime health path

Callum Hann and Themis Chryssidis from Sprout Cooking School in Adelaide.

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Sanitarium Health Food Company has partnered with Sprout Cooking School to launch a new program that teaches children skills and principles for healthy living on International Cooking Day today (September 25).

The 12 before 12 initiative gives parents tools to empower primary aged children to understand meal selection and food preparation, learning 12 essential food skills before they turn 12 years old.

Nutrition experts at Sanitarium joined forces with dietitian Themis Chryssidis and Masterchef contestant Callum Hann from Adelaide’s Sprout Cooking School to develop 12 before 12.

“We created 12 before 12 because healthy food habits established in childhood play an important role in our health over our lifetime,” said Shane Landon, accredited practising dietitian and nutrition insights manager for Sanitarium. “One of the key ways to a healthier diet is having the practical skills to make it happen.

“Food preparation and cooking skills are key ingredients in nutrition education, but we can’t rely on schools to do the job alone, particularly when most meal preparation happens in the home. Teaching children essential food skills needs to sit alongside physical activity as a priority for every Australian parent—and it can be lots of fun too!” said the father of two.

In helping to identify the 12 skills, Themis Chryssidis from Sprout said they were guided by a mission to simplify healthy eating advice.

“Somewhere along the way, the healthy eating message has got so complex,” he said. “We’ve become overly focused on looking at food through the lens of nutrients or kilojoules—the micro detail of what we’re eating—that we’ve lost sight of the bigger picture behaviours that make healthy eating intuitive. Food has become over-thought, and it’s not doing us any good.

12 before 12’s simpler message is: Eat mostly whole plant-based foods, drink mostly water, cook more at home—and for kids, find ways to sprinkle in some fun.”

12 before 12 infographic. These are 12 important skills kids can learn before they turn 12.

Grouped into four key areas—shopping, prepping, cooking and eating—the 12 before 12 skills cover the complete food journey from planning meals and choosing nutritious options at the shops, through to the hands-on tools and techniques children need in the kitchen and the social behaviours that make mealtimes a positive experience for the whole family.

These food skills form the basis of a new Sanitarium cookbook, available as a free digital download from the 12 before 12 website. Alongside a collection of healthy recipes that champion vegetables, fruits, legumes and wholegrains, three fun characters—Safety Inspector Sally, Waste Warrior Will and Nutritionist Nate—drop in throughout the cookbook pages to dish out fun facts and handy tips for aspiring home cooks.

12 before 12 also reinforces the importance of family meal times as an opportunity for parents to model healthier eating behaviours and provide children with a much-needed opportunity to reconnect after a busy day at school and play.

Evidence from Sanitarium’s Little People Big Lives report demonstrates this is critical for children’s emotional wellbeing, arguably even more so during the current period of stress and uncertainty.

To learn more about the 12 skills and download a free copy of the 12 before 12 cookbook visit

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