Sugar is a sticky topic when it comes to children. As a nation, we generally know that we shouldn’t consume too much of it but just how much is okay for our bodies? Or should our children not be consuming it altogether? Let’s tuck in to find out, honey!
Developing healthy tastes for life
Encouraging children to develop good food habits early on in life is vital to lay the foundation for the future of our children’s health. The first 1000 days of a child’s life are when the brain begins to grow and develop at a rapid rate. It’s also when the foundation for their lifelong health is built and when general eating habits and patterns are formed.
The early years therefore provides the optimum time to expose children to a wide range of healthy and nutritious foods, so that they can develop healthy tastes for life. So, can sugary foods ever be nutritious? It all depends on whether the sugar is naturally occurring or not.
Are naturally occurring sugars good for us?
Sugar that is found naturally in foods such as fruit, vegetables, and milk, does not need to concern us. There is no need to reduce these types of food in our diet, as they provide additional health benefits such as vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
When do we need to be concerned about sugar?
We do need to be aware of sugar which is added to our food and ‘free’ sugars:
There are a multitude of words used to describe the sugars added to food and drinks, e.g., cane sugar, sucrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, date syrup, brown rice syrup, and molasses.
Are free sugars harmful to health?
According to the British Nutrition Foundation: “Having a diet high in free sugars (more than 5-10% of total energy intake) can be harmful to health as it is associated with dental decay and may lead to excess consumption of energy (calories)”. A diet containing many foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt is unlikely to provide the balance of energy and nutrients that young children need and may contribute to them becoming overweight and having a poor nutrient intake.
There’s no guideline limit for free sugar for children under the age of 4, but the NHS recommends that this age group should avoid sugar-sweetened drinks and food with sugar added to it. It’s debatable whether this is realistic based on the current climate and food environment we live in, due to exposure to clever marketing techniques and the many food options which are high in fat, sugar, and salt available to buy so readily and cheaply.
Low sugar tastes so sweet!
At Nursery Kitchen, we recognise the importance of limiting the amount of added and free sugars children have in their diet. We understand that a high intake of sugar may lead to tooth decay (and potentially tooth extractions), but it can also lead to obesity and poor heath in later life. So, we believe it’s important to avoid sugary foods and snacks as much as possible.
We want to empower children to love the taste of good foods that do not contain added or free sugars, so that they can develop a healthy taste palate. To support this, we encourage the consumption of milk and water as main drinks, and we do not offer squash, fruit juice or fizzy drinks on our menus.
We’ve also recently switched to serving only full-fat, plain yoghurt on our nursery menu. This is because when infants and toddlers are offered sweeter yoghurts, they’re less likely to accept heathier, plain varieties going forward.
Dessert doesn’t need to be sugary!
At Nursery Kitchen we offer a range of delicious desserts on our menu that do not contain added sugar. Our popular ‘fruit oaty crunch’, which is available with a variety of different fruits, always goes down a treat with children (and adults, too!)! Comprising of antioxidant rich and naturally sweet fruit, high fibre oats, topical coconut, and exciting spices, it makes a tasty and nutritious dessert, snack or even breakfast for children.
We have also just launched our brand-new rice puddings. They are bursting with comforting flavours from ginger, vanilla, and raisins in one rice pudding, and sweet apricots, coconut, and vanilla in the other. Both are low in saturated fat and contain no added sugar. Providing healthy and yummy food to children sets them up in the best possible way to learn, play and develop!
Learn more about what’s on our menu, here.
Apples make a perfect, healthy snack throughout the day and on the go!
Did you know that apples are made up of 25% air which is why they float and we can play apple bobbing?!!
There are also 2,200 variety of apples around the world with each one being completely unique.
Enough of the fun facts now, let's see just how brilliant apples are:
There are lots of ways to enjoy this juicy fruit. However, fresh, whole apples are the best way to get all the goodness into our bodies, as apple skin is one of the most nutritious parts.
You can also enjoy apples by adding them to salads, desserts or even as a baked apple with some yummy Greek yoghurt! Mmmmmm
Dried apples are another yummy snack, and with them being naturally sweet it's easy to find ones with no added sugar, making them an easy snack for on the go.
Celeriac can be enjoyed raw or cooked and it makes a fantastic veggie comfort food. It can be roasted, mashed or even chopped!
Celeriac is a root vegetable that contains lots of yummy nutrition including, vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium and fibre!
With it being high in vitamin K and potassium it helps with our heart health and helps our bones become big and strong!
It is closely related to celery and parsnips which is why it has a nutty, celery-like flavour. When eaten raw it has a crunchy texture and when it is cooked it becomes slightly sweeter.
How to prepare celeriac:
There are many ways to prepare this vegetable but here is a simple recipe to help get you started:
With this simple way of cooking it, you could just eat it roasted, or blend with some cream for a pasta sauce or soup.
There are loads of celeriac recipes out there, so once you have got your head round it, get exploring!
Celeriac adds a wonderful depth of flavour to dishes! Farmer Sue uses it in her dish, download the recipe here.
Mushrooms are such a perfect ingredient, they are nutritious and delicious! They can be sautéed, roasted, puréed, there are so many ways to incorporate mushrooms into your diet. They have a lot to offer in terms of their nutrition:
Make sure to always be careful when eating mushrooms. If you eat the wrong one, you could be in truffle!
There are currently over 14,000 different kind of mushrooms that grow across the globe but not all of them are edible! You should never pick a mushroom that you see growing in the wild (unless you are an experienced forager).
Mushroom safety & how to prepare them
It can be really beneficial to introduce mushrooms into recipes when your baby is six months old. Introducing them at this age means they can get used to the texture and flavour which can help them to love a wider variety of foods as they grow older.
Always serve cooked mushrooms instead of raw and make sure they are sliced into age appropriate pieces. The stems of the mushroom should be avoided too as the round stem could be a choking risk. Make sure to always supervise your child while they are eating and always feed them upright.
Here's how you should prepare mushrooms safely for your children:
Slice mushrooms into large strips and sauté them until soft. This means they turn into finger food and your child can pick them up and suck on all the exciting juices.
As your child get older and develops more skill they develop a better grip. This means you can offer slightly smaller pieces of mushroom. Introduce them into recipes such as sauces and meatballs by chopping up the mushrooms finely.
One year and up:
This is when you can start chopping the mushrooms into slices and including them in more recipes or even have them as a side dish.
Why not give mushrooms a go with our yummy, 'farmer reggie's stewed veggies' recipe. This dish is super tasty and includes two different kinds of mushrooms.
Thank you very mush for reading
Satsumas are a wonderful fruit to have as a snack or a breakfast addition. They are loaded with vitamin C which helps to power our immune system and aids the absorption of iron. Did you know they contain about 44% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C?! They also include vitamin B which brings us energy and it also supports healthy brain function. Satsumas are high in fibre making it easier to cleanse the digestive system and they have antiseptic properties which helps to get rid of lots of nasty bacteria. So not only are satsumas sweet and tasty they are also extremely nutritious!
If you want your little one to have a satsuma there are a couple of steps to take to make sure they are eating them safely.
For babies, the flesh of the satsumas must be cut out of the papery membrane and sliced into small bite-sized pieces. Doing this is the safest way, however, it can make satsumas difficult for babies to pick up until their grip develops. This is why we recommend introducing satsumas at around 9 months of age.
Between 9 months and 18 months this is when you can start to offer bite- sized pieces of satsuma with the entire membrane still removed.
When they are toddlers (around 18 months and 24 months) satsumas segments can be given in half with the membrane on, if you are comfortable with their chewing and swallowing skills. At this stage, toddlers can gradually work their way up to whole satsuma segments. But remember, it is very important to teach children to take bites, rather than putting the whole segment at once in their mouth.
Around the age of 2, children can adapt their fine motor skills by learning how to peel a whole satsuma. Our recommended portion size is one satsuma per child.
Fennel is a crunchy green and white vegetable with feathery leaves, that can be eaten both raw and cooked. Fennel seeds, which are the actually the fruit of the fennel, are also available to be used in cooking.
Fennel is a member of the carrot family, but unlike carrots, it grows above ground. With a fresh, aromatic and subtly sweet, aniseed flavour, it can make a delightful addition to salads, sauces, and sides. For example, we've used diced fennel, together with fennel seeds to make our new, fish pie sauce for our salmon & smoked haddock pie.
How to eat fennel
There are really simple ways to eat fennel, such as slicing it very thinly and adding it to a salad. Dressing the fennel salad with olive oil and lemon works perfectly. Alternatively, you can dice fennel and use it in the same way you would onion, in the base of a recipe.
We also love roasted fennel, which can make it turn very sweet. To roast, you'll simply need to chop the fennel into long wedges, and place in the oven at 180°C for 30 minutes or so until golden, caramelised, and soft. We recommend roasting fennel with olive oil, lemon, and seasoning - just be mindful of adding any salt if you'll be serving to little ones. We think roast fennel is a really great and interesting side dish for any dinner, and works particularly well with chicken or fish.
Why do we we love fennel?
Fennel is a good source of vitamin C, which acts as an antioxidant in your body. The mineral manganese is also found in fennel, which is important for enzyme activation, metabolism, cellular protection, bone development, blood sugar regulation, and wound healing! Fennel actually contains several minerals vital to bone health, including, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
All in all, you can probably see why we absolutely love, fabulous fennel!
Nursery Kitchen have received two prestigious Nourish Awards! Our Pea and Paneer curry claimed the top spot with a Gold Award, while our Salmon and Pineapple Thai Curry earned a very respectable Silver Award.
Winners were announced at the 5th Annual Nourish Awards; a vibrant black-tie event held on 22nd September at the Caledonian Club in Belgravia. The evening was hosted by chef, nutritionist, and author Naomi Devlin, whose fun and witty presentation style added an extra layer of enjoyment to the fantastic event.
Known in the industry for having the toughest entry criteria and judging process, the Nourish Awards are widely recognised within the food and beverage industry. Moreover, they are the UKs leading health food awards for businesses.
Prerequisites for entry into the Nourish Awards include low or lower sugar or free from refined sugars and chemical sweeteners; and no gluten (except for oats). Critically, products should have outstanding quality and be innovative, healthy, nourishing, and tasty.
Following a blind taste testing of over 300 entrants, an expert judging panel consisting of nutritionists, health, and food industry experts, gave top marks to both Nursery Kitchen entries, which ultimately, secured gold and silver positions for the winning dishes in the Baby and Toddler Food category.
Diana Babics, founder of the Nourish Awards, said:
“This year’s awards saw unprecedented innovation in the health and free-from sectors. Convenience foods, supplements and plant-based products surprised and delighted the judges in particular. We are incredibly proud to celebrate these fantastic products and the passionate people behind them, who are leading the way to a healthier future.”
If you’d like to try making these award-winning dishes at home, please find the recipes, below:
For more information on the Nourish Awards, please visit: https://nourishawards.org/
Early oral health education paves the way for good oral health habits and routines that can last a lifetime. Children develop quickly in the early years and a child’s early experiences between birth and age 5 have a major impact on their future. This means it’s a very good time to help children understand good oral health.
Current statistics from Public Health England reveal that almost 1 in 4 five-year-olds have dental decay, that’s 25% of under 5’s despite dental decay being almost entirely preventable! So, how can parents and childcare practitioners best support children in good oral health? First and foremost, toothbrushing!
Brushing teeth removes plaque, which is the clear sticky film that adheres to the teeth. If plaque is left on the gum/tooth surface, it can lead to gum disease and eventually tooth loss. Essentially, brushing teeth removes plaque before it can interact with any acid.
Plaque + Sugar = Acid
Acid + Tooth = Decay
It’s important to remember that it is not only the amount of sugar that can affect the teeth, but the frequency that sugars are consumed (more on this later).
Use fluoride toothpaste - Children under 3 years should use a smear of toothpaste. Children over 3 years should use a small pea sized amount on their toothbrush, providing they can spit out. If unable to spit or has swallowing difficulties a smear is recommended.
Toothpaste for young children should contain no less than 1000 ppm of fluoride - the amount of fluoride in the toothpaste can be found on the side of the tube or on the packaging.
Do not rinse after brushing, rinsing washes away the fluoride that protects the teeth.
It is recommended that all children have a dental check by 1 year of age, followed by regular 6 monthly check-ups (or as often as recommended by the dentist). Ideally, parents should register their child at a dentist as soon as their first tooth comes through. NHS dental treatment for children is free.
Visiting early helps children get into the habit from a young age. They can get used to the sights, sounds, and smells of a dental practice and the dentist will check normal tooth development, can pick up any problems early and support parents in looking after their child’s teeth.
It can be beneficial to help children prepare for a trip to the dentist by reading books, together, such as, such as Topsy & Tim Go to The Dentist.
What children eat effects their oral health. Sugars in food and drink are one of the main contributing factors to tooth decay. Most sugars come from obvious sources i.e., chocolate, sweets, sugary drinks but some foods with high sugar content are less obvious, such as some yogurts, sauces, and breakfast cereals.
It’s always best to opt for sugar smart snacks and meals, such as those from Nursery Kitchen, while children are at nursery school. When children are at home, ideally parents should check the labels of the food they serve to ensure the food is low in sugar or does not contain free sugars. Fruit, veg and wholemeal snacks are typically a safe option.
Where possible, sugar free teething gels and temperature reducing medicines should be used.
Talk to children (age appropriate) about the importance of healthy eating and drinking as often as possible, discussing which foods help to grow strong teeth and which do not. Food tasting and cooking sessions are a great way to teach children where food comes from and promote healthy eating.
Young children should be given water or milk as these drinks do not contain free sugars and are therefore best for oral and overall health. Children should have six to eight 120ml-150ml drinks each day to ensure they are hydrated.
It is recommended to introduce a free flow cup from 6 months, with the aim to eliminate the use of a bottle by 1 year. Prolonged bottle use has been linked to tooth decay. Prolonged sucking on a teat/ dummy can also change the shape of the teeth and jaw which can affect speech development.
When a child drinks from an open top cup/ Doidy cup, the liquid is sipped (rather than sucked) so goes to the back of their mouth instead of pooling around the front teeth. Therefore, there is less risk of tooth decay.
Nursery Kitchen are the first early years food caterer to achieve Sugarwise Certification, and at platinum level, no less! This means that our menu has been certified as containing zero free sugars and low sugar overall.
When it comes to nutrition and autism, issues with food can be sensitive and sometimes complicated to manage. But we want every child to be able to enjoy food, whatever their individual preferences may be. We also want to ensure that where there are any specific ‘preferences’ or ‘limitations’ to a child’s diet, that they do not go without the essential nutrients they need and that they still have an enjoyable relationship with the foods they eat. There’s a lot to feeding children, and at Nursery Kitchen, we take every element of it seriously. We understand that no two children are the same and that each child will have their own food journey ahead of them.
There are some practical steps that can be undertaken when helping autistic children embrace a healthy relationship with food but first let’s look at some of the frequently identified food concerns that some children may experience: -
First and foremost, many eating issues experienced by children on the autism spectrum may be as a result of a gastrointestinal disorder. These may hinder the enjoyment of foods, the ability to sit at a table for any length of time, or cause anxiety around foods.
Most children thrive on routines but for children within autistic populations, routines can be especially important and any change to the routine can be upsetting, or even distressing. Having a menu visible for the week is helpful as the child (and parents) know what to expect. Try to minimise any changes to this especially any last-minute changes! If you have a special event or a theme meal planned, please try to plan this in advance rather than springing a surprise on the children. Some may love a surprise but in others, it could cause some anxiety and upset. Fear and anxiety will ‘shut down hunger’ so ensuring transition to mealtimes is fun and relaxed will help children feel at ease.
Introducing new foods can be challenging but it is important to keep trying. Try offering a food that remains familiar looking while building tolerance to small and incremental changes. And remember a lot of praise goes a long way with food acceptance!
Many children have some sensory issues around food, not just those who are autistic. Some may not like foods to touch, foods that look, smell, or feel a certain way or perhaps may not want a sauce to blend into any other food on their plate. It is difficult striking a balance between a child who is being selective over a child who feels genuine distress over their food sensory issues. Some practical steps for a child could be to let them guide on how their food is presented or to ensure that they have the cup/plate/place setting they are used to and comfortable with.
Some children within autistic populations may have extreme taste sensations, for some this may mean very bland foods yet for others they may be over-zealous with seasoning, and desire overly spiced or salty foods. It’s great when children embrace spicy foods but we need to be careful they are not causing any digestive disturbances and monitor this carefully. Our menu is designed to have a range of more dynamic meals and snacks that would suit a more complex palate (and an enquiring one!) without any adverse digestive issues.
Many children with autism may also have postural issues that interfere with eating. Low muscle tone, for example, can make it difficult to maintain an upright seated position, so if a child is particularly fidgety at the table or seems to experience discomfort, this may be the reason why.
Things like to work in partnerships and in harmony in the body. If we stick to the right food, we will get the right nutrients to do the right jobs; supporting immunity, a healthy gut microbiome, manufacturing neurotransmitters to balance mood, sleep and behaviour. We will metabolise food and fuel and eliminate waste etc. When we eat the wrong food, this can all fall out of synch. There are certain foods which are worse culprits than others:
• Artificial ingredients including sweeteners, trans-fats and too much sugar
• E numbers particularly the ‘Southampton Six; E110, E104, E122, E129, E102, E124
At Nursery Kitchen, our menu is free from ingredients that would cause a negative biological reaction and full of foods that support optimal formative nutrition.
For any child, managing a stable blood sugar level is beneficial for mood and behaviour. Dips can cause increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which increases feelings of fear/anxiousness. Our menu is designed to ensure that all children get a stable and sustained release of energy with each meal and snack provided.
Many children can easily become deficient in EFAs. There’s lots of evidence around how EFAs impact on overall health but they can have a huge influence on neurological health. For some time, Omega 3 supplementation and Omega 3 diets have been used in studies to assess depression, anxiety and behavioural issues. If we consider that a deficiency in EFAs would worsen stress and anxiety, it’s very important that children with autism get their intake either via foods or often via supplementation if the diet is too limited.
At Nursery Kitchen, we currently offer several dishes with EFAs, but we continuously strive to evolve our menu to further enhance the range of essential fatty acids available as menu options.
Evolution has given infants an innate preference for things that taste sweet, as it helps identify highly calorific foods. Children then develop a reluctance to taste unfamiliar foods as they approach the age of two. ‘Food neophobia’ protected children from ingesting harmful substances when they became more mobile and able to explore their environment independently. This gave a child the best chance of survival when food was scarce and it wasn’t a problem later because the family diet consisted of fresh fruit, vegetables and some meat or fish.
Now, more than half of all the food bought by families in the UK is ‘ultra-processed’, extremely high in saturated fat, salt, and sugar. Our evolutionary background means the availability of these foods make it more difficult to develop a liking for more healthy food such as vegetables, which often have a bitter taste. As a result, a third of children are now overweight or obese before they start school. Worst of all, this sets their food preferences for the rest of their lives.
So, it couldn’t be more important to help children develop a taste for healthy food. Of course, this isn’t always that simple but there are several techniques and best practices that you can follow to help encourage healthy eating habits.
Allowing children to understand the process of what goes into a dish and seeing these different ingredients can help familiarise a child with a wider range of food. Plus, children love to help with cooking.
If children are unsure about trying new foods, try to make the food familiar first. Children need to be familiar with a food with all their senses. So, seeing it, smelling it, and touching it may all be needed before a child is willing to have a bite or even a lick.
If you are more relaxed around mealtimes, children will be too. Sitting together at a table and modelling a healthy attitude towards eating and trying a wide range of foods can have a big impact on how children will perceive eating and mealtimes in general.
The way we talk about different foods can have a huge impact on a child. Often, we talk more positively about less healthy ‘treat foods’ than fruit and vegetables. Using words such as ‘yummy’ and ‘delicious’ when discussing a new food can make it seem like a more appealing option.
Even if a child has just tasted a tiny amount of food for the first time, it is so important to encourage them by praising this effort. Use positive praise rather than using bribes such as, ‘eat your vegetables and then you can have dessert’.
It can take up to 15-20 exposures before a child accepts a new taste, so don't give up too easily in trying to encourage healthy eating habits. Children's palates and experiences with food are constantly shifting and evolving.