Enlisting some little helpers to lend a hand in the kitchen is a great way to teach your children all about health, as well as teach them valuable cooking skills. But, could you have picked up a few unhealthy habits? Here, Mike Hardman from catering and kitchen equipment suppliers Alliance Online shares the top 10 kitchen behaviours that can damage your child's gut health.
We're all guilty of cutting a few corners in the kitchen, and when you're juggling your household tasks with being a parent, a shortcut can help save you some valuable time. But, some of these shortcuts could actually be doing more harm than good.
A healthy gut microbiome can help shape your little one into a healthier person as a whole, so you no doubt want to feed them the right stuff to keep their health up. But, there are a few common kitchen habits that could be undoing all your hard work and, here, I'll be listing the top 10 so you can create a healthier life for your whole family.
1. Not washing your hands for long enough
Washing your hands is the golden rule of the kitchen, but many of us aren't washing our hands as often or for as long as we need to. This can lead to germs and bacteria being transferred onto your food and surfaces. For utmost kitchen hygiene, you should be washing your hands for 20 seconds using hot water and an antibacterial hand soap before cooking and after handling food — especially after touching raw meat or fish.
To make sure your kids are cleaning their hands for long enough, it might be helpful to sing a quick 20-second song. A run through of the alphabet or two rounds of 'Happy Birthday' should do the trick.
2. Defrosting food too quickly
The freezer can be an essential part of family life, but it could be possible you're defrosting your foods too quickly. Leaving them out on the counter to thaw can cause bacteria to grow as your food reaches room temperature. And, once it's been at room temperature for over two hours, these bacteria can quickly multiply.
To keep your food safe to eat, it's best to take it out your freezer a little earlier and defrost it in the fridge over a longer period of time.
3. Leaving leftovers out the fridge
Cooking extra portions and storing them for a busy day can help save you some time. However, leaving leftovers out of the fridge cooling down for too long can cause bacteria to grow, making your dish potentially dangerous to eat.
As a general rule, leftovers should be put straight into the fridge or freezer within two hours. Anything left out for longer than this should be thrown away to be on the safe side.
4. Having an unorganised fridge
Although it might be tempting to put your shopping away wherever you can fit it, different foods will need to be stored in various areas of your fridge to keep them at their freshest. Meat, poultry, and fish should be stored on the bottom shelf, so any juices won't drip down and contaminate the rest of your produce.
The door is one of the warmest areas of your fridge, as the temperature regularly fluctuates as you open and close it. Foods with natural preservatives, such as condiments, jams, and juices, should be stored here.
It might also be a good idea to double check the temperature settings on your fridge. The Food Standards Agency recommends your fridge is set somewhere between 0–5°C.
5. Using wet tea towels
Although your tea towel is only used to dry your clean hands or dishes, leaving them damp on the worktop can cause harmful bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli to thrive. This means you could be transferring bacteria straight back onto your clean plates or hands which could lead to food poisoning.
To make sure your towels are as clean as possible, it can be a good idea to use a different one for each task, such as drying hands, dishes, and worktops. It's also wise to change them for a fresh towel every day. To kill the bacteria, wash your tea towels at 60°C.
6. Not cleaning your kitchen sink
Your kitchen sink is where you wash your hands and your dishes, meaning any food particles that haven't been washed away, along with a damp environment, can make it a breeding ground for illness causing bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli.
You should be cleaning your sink at least once a week using an antibacterial soap and warm water. You might also want to plug the drain and fill it with water and a tablespoon of bleach. Let this mixture sit for around five minutes before letting the water out.
7. Not replacing your sponges
Just like your sink, your kitchen sponge can be a breeding ground for bacteria since it regularly comes into contact with food and dirty surfaces. And, because sponges can take a very long time to dry out completely, this makes it the perfect home for bacteria to multiply.
To keep bacteria at bay, it can help to have a different sponge for each cleaning task. It's also a good idea to disinfect your sponges on a daily basis by putting them in the top rack of the dishwasher. If you don't have a dishwasher, you can soak them in a little bleach and warm water for around five minutes. You should also replace your sponge every two weeks or so.
8. Using the same chopping board
Using the same chopping board for all of your ingredients is another common kitchen mistake that could be damaging your family's health. Raw meat, poultry, and fish can contain disease-causing bacteria that is killed once it's cooked. However, if you're using the same chopping board for these foods as you are for fresh produce, you could transfer the bacteria and cause food poisoning.
To avoid this, it's best to use a different chopping board for different ingredients, colour coding them so you know which board is for which. If you've noticed any cuts in your chopping board, it's best to replace it, as bacteria can hide in the grooves and can be difficult to remove.
9. Eating raw dough
Baking can be a fun activity for the whole family. But, if you're guilty of letting your little ones taste the uncooked batter or dough, it could lead to food poisoning. This is because is contains raw eggs which can carry Salmonella, as well as uncooked flour, which can contain E. coli. So, it's best to wait until your delicious treats are fully cooked.
10. Not eating the right foods
You know a balanced diet is key to a healthy life, and not eating the right foods could be damaging your child's gut health. To keep your family as healthy as possible, make sure they're getting plenty of high-fibre foods, fruits and vegetables, and probiotics, while cutting down on high-fat, high-sugar foods which can cause gut inflammation.
By avoiding these 10 common kitchen habits and adopting a regular cleaning routine, you could improve your family's gut health.