DUNCAN BARKES: Healthy eating is not just a money matter

TV chef Jamie Oliver has been making the headlines again.

This time he is criticising poorer families for eating unhealthy food. Oliver has a new TV show to plug, but are his criticisms fair?

He talks about spending time with families who class themselves as ‘poor’ yet munch on chips from the local takeaway, sitting in front of a massive flat-screen TV.

The celebrity chef and campaigner is rightly questioning if such families are genuinely impoverished; whether or not their circumstances mean they cannot afford decent food or if they simply choose not to bother.

I have given this much thought over the last few days.

There is a practical issue. It is clear that people have stopped learning how to cook.

Changes to the school curriculum mean less hands-on experience in the kitchen.

Add to that the onslaught of convenience meals and even basic culinary skills have taken a back seat. I was taught the basics of cooking by my mum.

Spaghetti Bolognese, meat and two veg and the principles of a roast were all things I learnt at home.

When I first started living alone, and on a budget, I spent Saturday afternoons experimenting in the kitchen with different dishes.

It was the only way I could afford to eat well and healthily.

It amazes me how in 2013 many people simply do not know how to cook. I take the rather pompous view that if you cannot cook a roast dinner then you really should be ashamed.

The second issue is knowledge. Perverse as it may seem, there are some poor souls walking this earth believing that chicken and chips for a quid from some backstreet fast-food parlour represents good value.

They simply lack the education to realise that the money used to make multiple trips to the chicken shop could be used to provide a variety of decent meals.

I also think laziness has a part to play in unhealthy eating.

Many hide behind the excuse they do not have time to cook, but a one-tray roast of meat and veg, or the same ingredients in a slow cooker, take minutes to prepare.

Jamie Oliver has been criticised for his comments, but do you think he’s right?

I share his belief that you can eat a healthy balanced diet on a meagre budget.

But you have to want to.