Nutrition experts reveal 12 essential food skills every Australian child needs for healthier lifetime eating habits

Posted by Media Release Agency on 12th October 2020

Australian children have more access to information on healthy eating than ever before, yet busy family lifestyles and ‘convenience culture’ are eroding opportunities for children to learn essential skills that support healthier dietary patterns that may hold the key to better lifetime physical and mental health outcomes.

That’s why the nutrition experts at Sanitarium Health Food Company have joined forces with dietitian Themis Chryssidis and Masterchef™ fan favourite Callum Hann from Adelaide’s acclaimed Sprout Cooking School to develop a new initiative to help children shop, prep, cook and eat their way to a healthier life.

Called 12 before 12, the initiative encourages families to empower primary-school aged children around meal selection and food preparation. It challenges children to learn 12 essential food skills before they turn 12 years old, with the aim of making healthy eating easier and enjoyable for life.

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.

In helping 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. We’ve become overly focussed 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”, he said.

Grouped into four key areas, 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.


  1. Speedy Shopper – Plan what you’re going to cook, write a shopping list and zoom around the supermarket to grab it all.
  2. Label Lingo – Read and understand the labels on food to decide what to buy and eat!
  3. Seasonal Selector – Know what is in season and make recipes to hero those foods. Seasonal foods taste better, are more nutritious and typically cost less.


  1. Recipe Ready – Know how to measure ingredients accurately and have the right equipment on hand to do so.
  2. Safety Inspector – Keep yourself, your friends and family happy and healthy by staying focused in the kitchen, maintaining cleanliness and learning how to correctly handle kitchen
  3. Chop like a boss – Know how to choose the right knife and when to safely and confidently rock chop, use a crab claw, or the tunnel technique.


  1. Grill Master – Master the cooktop by ensuring you are correctly prepped and understand how to work with heat. The temperature of the grill will impact both the cooking process and
    end result.
  2. Waste Warrior – Learn to minimise the amount of food that ends up in landfill by reducing food waste, reusing ingredients and recycling.
  3. Picasso Plater – We eat with our eyes, so release the creativity of your inner artist on to your plate. Eating the rainbow looks as good as it tastes!


  1. Healthy DJ – Mix up your meals like your favourite DJ and portion them in the right mix to form a balanced plate of vegetables, wholegrains and healthy proteins.
  2. Table Talk – Brush up on old school table etiquette for new school kids. Wait for everyone else to be seated before you start eating. Chew with your mouth closed, use ‘please’ and
    ‘thank you’ as important table manners if you need something from the other side of the table and don’t have a screen in front of you. Once you’re finished, help wash up!
  3. Secret Ingredient – A shared meal has the power to bring the whole family together. The secret ingredient to wholly healthy meal times are a dash of appreciation, a sprinkle of
    connection and lashings of love.