Isn’t it strange that the nutritional value of school meals are heavily regulated…and yet nurseries are allowed to serve pretty much anything they like? What an odd state-of-affairs that our youngest and most vulnerable children could be fed chips every day, and no one would bat an eyelid!
Actually, that’s not quite true, because I suspect our parents would have something to say about it. It’s perfectly correct to say that nursery food is unregulated, but thank heavens that most parents these days are very clued up on the importance of diet in their children’s lives.
So what constitutes a ‘good’ menu for nursery children?
First and foremost, it comes down to an experienced, well-trained chef. Our cook – Rachael – is not only trained in the basics of Food Hygiene (the minimum standard required by law) but she has also undertaken formal studies around the subjects of catering for the public and the nutritional requirements of the under 5s. This means that she knows how to ensure that a chicken casserole is perfectly cooked, as well as understanding how many portions of oily fish should be served each week to a three-year-old.
As one of the nursery owners, I’ve also undertaken some of this training too, which has been invaluable in ensuring that our mealtime standards are incredibly high. And there are plenty of ‘tricks’ that you can use at home, too:
- We sweeten our puddings with fruit in order to cut down the refined sugars (try it – I promise you won’t miss the sugar!)
- We mix wholemeal and white flours in our baking, half and half. We do the same for pasta and rice.
- We roll homemade chicken nuggets in sesame seeds to give them a nice, healthy crunch.
- We replace meat with lots of pulses like lentils, for high-quality, vegetarian meals.
- We serve pure, diluted fruit juice with our meals (the vitamin C in the fruit helps with the absorption of iron from the food).
Rachael has lead our nursery through some wonderful ‘foodie’ accolades – from achieving 5 out of 5 from the Environmental Health team for our standards of hygiene and cleanliness, to our Gold Heartbeat Award, given to catering establishments who demonstrate a thorough understanding of nutrition.
But as any parent knows, our best reward comes from clean plates and full tummies, and the knowledge that we’ve done our very best for our children in every way.