Cooking · Parenting

Cooking with children – part 2

When I wrote part 1, I promised there would be more… Here it is!

Last time we talked about: Hand hygiene, general yuk, listening to an adult, not touching things they have not been asked to touch, stirring skills, measuring out ingredients, food handling and the language of recipes

This time, we are going to look at some more skills.

Chopping skills

You may be nervous about letting your child use a knife but it is important children learn to use one. Start with a non serrated butter knife and let them spread their homous on their bread. You could then graduate to cutting soft bread or avocado. There are also child safe cooking knives on the market which use a sawing action to cut things. You can use these to cut vegetables but it is quite a different action to a regular chopping action. As your child becomes more confident, let them put their hand on top of yours as you cut things up so they get used to the action required and when you are happy, let them have a go. Make sure they are always supervised and the knife is not too heavy for them.

It is really important that you don’t micromanage cutting things. If the pepper pieces are not all exactly even, don’t interfere. Praise your child regardless of the uniformity of the product! If they think they can’t do it perfectly, they might not want to have a go next time. If what they are cutting needs to be a bit more uniform so the cooking time is even, help them cut the pieces into similar sizes.

You may find for certain ingredients, for example, bacon or sundried tomatoes, using scissors is easier than a knife.

Oven and hob safety

It goes without saying that ovens and hobs can be dangerous. Teach your child not to touch the door of the oven or the stove top, teach them to turn the pan handles in and to use oven gloves when touching hot things. Children will eventually need to learn to get things out of the oven but do this in stages, get them used to stirring things on the hob with you supervising making sure they don’t touch other things at the same time and then let them practise using oven gloves to move things round the kitchen. Once you are happy they are in charge of both of their hands at the same time and they can safely wear the gloves, you can help them to use the oven. Always supervise.

Food hygiene

From making sure you thoroughly wash vegetables to using different chopping boards for raw and cooked foods to how to store food, there is lots to learn about food hygiene. There is too much to discuss here but children have to learn all these things at some point so it is best they learn them from you rather than finding out after they have given the whole family food poisoning. There is some great information here to get you started.

Portion control

Working out how much each person can eat is a challenge for even the most experienced of cooks but it is a skill children need to learn. Looking at the portion sizes on packets can help but some are way out! Experimenting is part of the learning process. If you have cooked far too much, talk to your child about how you can cook less next time but also how you might be able to use up the leftovers. Love Food Hate Waste have lots of tips on this.

Tidying up!

No matter how big your kitchen is, you will need to tidy up at some point. Teaching your child to tidy up as they go along is a skill that can be useful outside the kitchen too! So as you are waiting for something to come to the boil or to bake in the oven, start clearing the work surfaces so you have space to do the next part of the cooking process

 

 

Remember, try to have these skills in mind when you are cooking with a child. The end result might not be amazing but think of what they have learnt in the process. Remember cooking is part of play, it needs to be fun (and quite messy!).

I’d love to hear about what you cook with your children.

 

Cooking · Parenting

Cooking with children – part 1

This is the first in a series of articles for parents and carers about the skills I think children need to develop around cooking

When it comes to cooking with our children it is easy to get into the habit of baking with our children rather than cooking with them. Teaching our children cooking skills is vital so here are some thoughts about the sorts of skills which will give them a head start when they are left to their own devices in the kitchen.

Hand hygiene

Before starting any food preparation children should learn that they need to wash their hands, not wet them, wash them. I recently talked to a group of 4 and 5 year olds about ‘painting their hands with soap’ (making sure the bubbles go over all their fingers, their thumbs, their palms and the backs of their hands) and then ‘washing off the paint’  This makes a game out of handwashing but it also helps them understand that the whole hand needs washing and ALL the soap has to come off. Then, encourage them to dry them properly – wiping their hands on their trousers or skirts is not the way to do it before food prep. Be light hearted about it.

General yuk

My boys also learnt pretty quickly that they would be banished to wash their hands again if they picked their nose or their ears when they were cooking! Sneezing and coughing are also not a great way to make healthy food!

Listening to an adult

There are lots of things in a kitchen which are great fun but there are also things which could hurt them. They need to learn to listen otherwise the activity won’t be nearly as much fun.

Not touching things they have not been asked to touch

Again this comes down to safety but also to learning how a recipe works. If you put the pasta in the saucepan with them raw mince, you are going to have a very different dish to the intended spaghetti bolognese. Not touching this they have not been asked to touch is definitely a transferable skill!

Stirring skills

My dad is an excellent stirrer but this is not the sort of stirring children need to learn to be good in the kitchen! It’s quite an art to thoroughly mix ingredients, be patient and, if necessary, hold the spoon with them rather than just doing it yourself.

Measuring out ingredients

Depending on the age of the child, they can get involved in the weighing out. All children can get involved in measuring though. If they are very young, you can pre-measure the ingredients into bowls and then they can spoon the ingredient in, counting the spoonfuls.

Food handling

Some children will love to get messy, others will hate it. Find the activities which suit the child but don’t be afraid of gently pushing them to try to do something new. If they won’t stick their hands in the mince and onions to make meatballs, get them to help put the pre-made meatballs on a baking tray (a cold one!) ready for cooking.

The language of recipes

I remember an early date when my boyfriend, now husband, was rescued by his housemate whilst trying to cook me a mushroom soup for a Valentine’s Day meal. He almost did what many have done before him, put a whole bulb of garlic into the soup instead of a clove. The result could have been interesting!

There are lots of words in recipes which will expand your child’s vocabulary like whisk, beat, fold, dice. There are also lots of abbreviations to get used to tbsp (tablespoon) and tsp (teaspoon), oz (ounce), g (gram). The art of reading a recipe is a key skill for children and adults alike. Being able to read a recipe opens up volumes of recipe books with endless inspiration for meals.

 

There are many more skills but I think this is enough for now, part 2 to follow. Try to have these skills in mind when you are cooking with a child. The end result might not be amazing but think of what they have learnt in the process. Remember cooking is part of play, it needs to be fun (and quite messy!).

I’d love to hear about what you cook with your children.

 

Healthy Eating · Parenting · Pregnancy

Eating healthily whilst pregnant and nauseous

Congratulations you are pregnant! Exciting times ahead and what a responsibility; you are the sole provider of nutrition for your unborn baby. And as if that wasn’t enough, you also have to deal with nausea, tiredness, aches… Who would be pregnant!?

As someone who couldn’t open my mouth without being sick for a period of pregnancy I would rather not repeat, I am very sympathetic of the reader who requested this post.

Here are some tips for eating well whilst being nauseous.

Tip 1: Keep Hydrated

The most important thing to make sure you do when you are pregnant and nauseous is to stay well hydrated. This is often the reason women end up in hospital in pregnancy with their ‘morning sickness’. Small sips of water totalling about 2 litres a day is the aim. If you can’t stomach plain water, add unsweetened squash or have some decaffeinated tea (although don’t drink 2 litres of tea or it may affect your iron absorption!). Avoid sweetened drinks, for the sake of your teeth but also your mood. Avoid having more than 2 cups of caffeinated tea or coffee a day.

Tip 2: Snack well

You may find it helpful to have small meals or snacks throughout the day, rather than big meals. Strong flavours and smells can often make you feel more nauseous so dry foods such as wholemeal crackers or breadsticks can help. Better still, vegetable sticks such as carrots, celery, cucumber, peppers, and raw baby sweetcorn or raw sugar snap peas are a great snack. If you feel you need more calories, dip them in homous or have them with a handful of nuts or seeds. Plain yoghurt is also a good snack with a handful of berries.

Tip 3: Limit sugary and high fat snacks

If you don’t have sugary or high fat snacks in the house, it makes it a lot harder to eat them! Yes, you can send your partner out to get some but at least they are not right under your nose. If you can, limit sugary or high fat snacks to one a day. This includes highly processed snacks. Remember cravings last about 20 minutes usually. If you feel like you want a snack, have a drink of water, go away and do something else and if you still want something to eat, try and have something savoury and within the balance of the Eatwell Guide. If you can have snacks which are high in fibre, this can help reduce the risk of constipation too.

Tip 4: It’s all about balance

As always, try and stick to the Eatwell Guide. If you have already had lots of starchy carbohydrates today, it might be time for some protein (eg pulses, meat, fish, eggs, nuts), some fruit and veg, or some dairy (or alternatives like almond or soya milk).

Tip 5: Don’t kid yourself, you are not eating for two.

Yes, you are eating for 2 in a sense but not in the way we often think of it. You need nutrients for your baby but you only need extra calories in the last trimester. Even then you only need 200kcal extra a day (which you get from 50g cheese, a chicken leg or a bagel). If you eat lots of extra calories in pregnancy, you only have to get rid of them later, so if you can avoid unnecessary weight gain in pregnancy, it helps later down the line.

Good luck!

For further tips on eating well during pregnancy, check out First Steps Nutrition

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Health promotion · Healthy Eating · Parenting

Portion sizes for children

All children are different and have different appetites. Here are 8 tips to help all those with responsibility for feeding children to know how much to give them.

  1. Know the child’s weight and get them weighed regularly (at least once a year for school-age children, more often for younger children). If they are tracking along their growth chart, they are probably getting the right amount of food (although not necessary the right type of food)
  2. Look at the balance of food across their day. Focus more on the variety and types of food, rather than just the amount. Focus on fresh, unprocessed foods. Focus on the nutrients rather than just the calories. From the age of 2, children’s diets should reflect the Eatwell Guide.
  3. Make sure your child is well hydrated. Children should have about 1-1.5l a day and more when it is hot. Water is the ideal drink. It is important to limit sugary drinks as well as limiting fruit juice to 150ml a day). For more specific amounts for different age groups click here
  4. Give your child a small amount of each food and let them ask for more. This will help them to regulate their own appetite
  5. Banish the rule which says you have to finish everything on your plate
  6. Encourage your child to have regular meals and not snack in between meals and your regular snack times
  7. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ or ‘you have had enough’.
  8. If in doubt, ask a health professional

 

Remember, food is not just about calories, it is amount nutrition, social activity, learning and new experiences. Get your child involved with every stage as they learn to love food.

 

Parenting · Weaning

Ready to wean but worried about choking?

When it comes to starting your baby on solid foods there is lots to think about… What their first food will be, will I use the baby led or spoon feeding method, which high chair shall I buy, when should I start… The list goes on (That’s why I spend 3 sessions talking about it on my weaning course)!

Some parents are put off giving their baby solids at all because of the fear of choking. It is a risk but baby could pick something up when they start crawling and choke on it so it is about reducing the risk and knowing what to do if they ever choke. Don’t delay weaning your baby because of the fear of choking. Your baby needs to start on solids around 6 months because breast and formula milk alone don’t give them all the nutrition they need long term. They need to develop their ability to cope with different flavours and textures and they need iron as the iron stores they are born with will have largely been depleted.

Before you start it is helpful to know the difference between choking and gagging otherwise you might panic lots which won’t help you or your child develop a healthy relationship with meal times.

What is choking?

Choking is a difficulty breathing because of an obstruction in the throat. Generally with choking there will be no noise and eventually the person will turn blue and lose consciousness. Choking always needs an intervention.

What is gagging?

“an involuntary retching reflex that may be stimulated by something touching the posterior palate or throat region”. Gagging is a normal part of weaning and babies need to be allowed to use their gag reflex to move the food which has got in the wrong place in their mouth. Adult intervention is not usually needed unless the baby is struggling.

So here are some dos and don’ts around choking and weaning:

  • Learn first aid. Consider a Mini First Aid course – they are only 2 hours long and you practise dealing with choking using both baby and child manikins.
  • Don’t delay weaning because of fear. If your baby is ready (holding head up, picking things up and putting them in their mouths and able to swallow – usually around 6 months), don’t delay.
  • Never leave baby unattended whilst they have access to food.
  • If baby gags on a food, try to distract them afterwards with positive attention rather than dwelling on the incident or linking it to that type of food.
  • If baby gags on a food, don’t assume they have an allergy. Baby could gag on any food and there isn’t necessarily a link.
  • If baby chokes, follow what you have learnt on the first aid course and call 999 if the first five back blows do not dislodge the obstruction.
Diet · Healthy Eating · Parenting

100 calorie snacks

You may have heard on the news that Public Health England have suggested that children should be restrict their snacks to two 100 calorie snacks a day.

There has been lots of debate about whether children should be calorie counting but the principle is that although children benefit from small snacks, they should not be large snacks or ones which are very high in sugar or salt. Ideally we want snacks to provide some additional nutrients (not just energy).

Here are some ideas for alternative snacks:

  • Half a crumpet or potato cake with some ‘no added sugar’ peanut butter or cream cheese
  • Homemade fluffy American Pancakes – I use self raising flour, make the pancakes small and then freeze them (so make several batches at a time). I use half the sugar. Great to grab out of the freezer in the morning – they will be defrosted by school pick up.
  • Fruit – apples, banana, grapes, clementines, melon….
  • Carrot, cucumber, pepper sticks and homous
  • Cheese cubes and a cracker
  • 1 breadstick with some cream cheese to dip it in

I wouldn’t recommend dried fruit as a snack as it has a tendency to stick to your teeth, save dried fruit for main meals.

If you have any other suggestions, feel free to add them in the comments 🙂

Diet · Health promotion · Healthy Eating · Nursery · Parenting · Weaning

Looking for a nursery – what to ask in terms of food

Looking for a nursery can be a daunting process. It is important you feel comfortable leaving your child there and yet you can only go on other people’s recommendations. Not only should we check Ofsted reports and find out other parents opinions but we also need to ask the right questions when we go to visit. I would suggest you right them down too, if you are anything like me, you won’t remember all of them when you get there.

I have heard people say that they want to start weaning before they go back to work. My answer to this is that if you are not happy for your childcare provider to feed your child and teach them about food then you shouldn’t be using that provider.

Unlike schools nurseries and childminders are not required by law to keep to strict nutritional standards. There are voluntary guidelines developed by the Children’s Food Trust but they are not mandatory.

So here are 10 questions I think you should ask:

  1. Are they signed up to the voluntary guidelines?
  2. What is on the menu? – if your child is eating all their food at nursery, they need to have 5 portions of fruit and veg included each day, a portion of oily fish a week, some wholegrain foods, 2-3 portions of dairy and some red meat. There shouldn’t be too much processed food, high sugar foods or high salt foods.
  3. What do they give the children to drink? Children don’t need juice or squash. Ask the nursery whether they offer these or whether they stick to water – children will want what their peers are having. A portion of milk a day is a great way to get some calcium but toddlers don’t need milk all the time. (the age of the child will determine how much water and how much milk they should have)
  4. How much water to they encourage the children to drink? Did you know that a 1 year old needs about 1 litre of fluid a day? Good hydration is good for concentration and crucial for good dental health too.
  5. Do the staff eat with the children? Role model are SO important. Do the staff model eating fish and fruit and veg.
  6. Are children expected to finish what is on their plates? What happens if they don’t? The current recommendation is to let children say when they have had enough so they can learn to regulate appetite.
  7. What is offered if the child doesn’t like the food? Children should not be offered a high fat/high salt/high sugar alternative. They can be given choice but within the same food group. Otherwise children hear, you need to eat this nasty thing to have this yummy thing. Ideally you want a nursery which will reward children (with a sticker not a food reward) for trying the food.
  8. Is food given as a reward for good behaviour? This is not recommended and nurseries should try to use other things as rewards, otherwise food is used to treat – a cycle which can continue into adulthood.
  9. What are children allowed to take in on their birthday to share with their class? If there are 40 children in a nursery and every birthday comes with sweets and cake, that is a lot of additional sugar. Fruit or a special story to share with the group are a great alternative.
  10. How much physical activity is encouraged during the day? Children need to be active. They can be active in play as well as sport. Do they have plenty of space to run around, dance, kick a ball?

 

This is not an exhaustive list. I’d love to hear if you have any other suggested questions.