Monthly Archives: October 2012

Lunchtime changes giving you the chills?

It’s Halloween week – the perfect time to blog about some of the scary stories we’ve been emailed by parents in the last half term.

Three parents emailed us to say they were confused (and bemused) by the way their schools seemed to have started policies banning packed lunches with little warning or information, and about how they were using them.

One dad wrote to us to ask if this is allowed at all. Another father emailed to say his childrens’ school had refused to give them the packed lunches he’d sent them to school with, saying that they now had a policy of school meals only. When he checked the school’s lunch policy, this wasn’t mentioned anywhere. A mum dropped us a line to say she was in a similar dilemma.

Confused? Frustrated? Worried? So were these parents. We’re all agreed that we want children to have a good lunch at school: most teachers agree you can see the difference in a child’s ability to do well in class when they’ve eaten a decent meal (scientific studies show this too, including ours in primary and secondary schools, and this one which found that children in pilot areas where they were all able to have free school meals made up to 2 months more progress than their peers elsewhere).

That’s why our advice to every school is to be very clear about lunchtime policies, so that children’s nutrition doesn’t suffer. If your school’s thinking about starting something new at lunchtime or making a change, talk to parents about it first: see what they think, discuss any concerns they have and find a way to resolve them. Most important of all, keep parents informed – through your newsletter, your headteacher’s blog, your website, letters home, your Twitter feed – on any decisions that are made.

As a parent, if you’re not happy about lunchtime policies at your child’s school, you might want to start by talking to someone on the school’s leadership team (the head, the deputy or your child’s head of year) or to one of your school’s governors (parent governors are often a good start); they’re responsible for the policies in place at your child’s school. There’s strength in numbers, too, so see if other parents feel the same.

When it comes to policies which ban packed lunches, the Department of Education says that schools can set their own policies relating to food, and that can include requiring pupils to have a school lunch. But whatever the policy, the key is communicating it well.

Three top tips to remember:

• Research shows school meals are more nutritious than the vast majority of packed lunches, which is why some schools opt not to allow lunchboxes at all
• Parents of children having school meals often report that it helps with fussy eating. In one survey we did, 8 out of 10 mums and dads whose children have school meals told us that they’ve tried something in school which they never eat at home
• Even if your child is still really fussy or isn’t making very good choices from the canteen, school cooks and lunchtime supervisors can be your greatest ally. Have a chat with them and see if they can help encourage your child to have a go of something new – even little tastes will help.

Claire’s one of our nutritionists. Email Claire here. For advice on starting new school food policies, visit our website or contact our team of advisors.

“What’s for breakfast?”

It’s often referred to as the most important meal of the day (in fact, for Winnie the Pooh, it was the first thing he said to himself each morning – remember?), and in coverage about breakfast clubs in schools this week, there were plenty of reminders of why.

Tuesday brought news of a poll of 500 teachers, four out of five of whom said they’d seen children arriving at school who hadn’t eaten any breakfast. Asked why, and most cited money troubles or a lack of interest from parents. Read how the poll was reported by the Guardian and the BBC here. We liked this blog from Fareshare’s Lindsey Boswell, reflecting on the poll and on the fast-growing issues surrounding food poverty in the UK on World Food Day.

When you wake up, your body hasn’t had any fuel for several hours. Breakfast gives you the energy you need to get your brain going again, so that you’re alert and more able to concentrate – whatever your age!

Some of our favourite breakfast tips for children:

  • Base their breakfasts on starchy foods like bread or cereal – wholegrain varieties release energy more slowly, which means they’ll keep them going for longer
  • If you’re a childcare provider for under-fives and you offer them breakfast, we recommend you give them a portion of fruit with their breakfast every day. Find tips on how to do this and lots more on good breakfasts for under-fives on our Eat Better, Start Better pages
  • Our studies comparing exam results at schools with breakfast clubs to those at schools without found pupils got better results where healthy breakfasts were on offer
  • School food standards give schools lots of guidance on how to offer healthy breakfasts at breakfast club, to fuel up children for the morning
  • Try muesli or porridge with low fat milk; yoghurt and a handful of dried or fresh fruit; wholegrain toast with tomatoes and mushrooms; or peanut butter or baked beans on wholegrain toast
  • Add a glass of fresh fruit juice – this gives children vitamin C to absorb more of the iron from cereals.

So how do we make sure that every child is getting a good breakfast to start the day? How can schools and early years settings help – and what help do they need in turn? Those questions will be well and truly on the agenda at our next Children’s Food Conference on 19th March in London. Carmel McConnell, from the charity Magic Breakfast, will be joining us to speak about their work. Can’t wait to hear the debate!

Register your interest in coming to the Children’s Food Conference: Tweet us; Tweet Sam in our events team; email or call us.

Claire’s our Media and Communications Manager. Email Claire.

Get your fruit juice facts here!

Another week, another children’s food story certain to leave lots of parents feeling seriously confused!

Fruit juice is one way to help your child reach the five portions of fruit and veg they need to eat each day, and to take in important nutrients like vitamin C.

But it’s easy to forget that fruit juice contains sugar too. This can contribute to tooth decay if children have too much, too often.

So here are my top tips about how to include fruit juice in your child’s diet:

Keep serving sizes sensible:

  • For one- to five-year-olds, a typical serving is about 50ml of unsweetened fruit juice, diluted with the same amount of water. Give them this with a meal, not with snacks or between meals – this helps to protect their teeth from the sugar and fruit acids in the juice. Doing it this way also helps children to absorb iron from their meal, thanks to the vitamin C in the juice
  • 150ml of unsweetened fruit juice for primary and secondary school-aged children is enough to give them one of their 5-a-day, and will give them all of their daily requirement for vitamin C. You can make the drink longer for an older child by mixing the juice with tap or sparkling water
  • Remember – however much fruit juice a child drinks, it can only ever count as one of their 5-a-day. That’s because fruit juice doesn’t contain all the nutritional benefits (like fibre) of fresh fruit, so it’s worth sticking to just one glass a day, and encouraging kids to eat lots of other types of fruit and veg as well.

Watch out for ‘fruit juice drinks’: these often look very similar to fruit juice, and have a similar name, but usually contain only a small amount of fruit juice. Sometimes there’s added sugar or sweeteners in them too.

Ask if your childcare provider is using our guidelines for healthy food and drinks in early years settings: these recommend tap water and milk as the only drinks you should give young children between meals to protect their teeth, and that diluted fruit juice should only be provided at mealtimes.

Try school meals: the National School Food Standards recommend tap water, fruit juice and milk – or combination drinks using milk, fruit juice and water – as healthier options when they get to school age.

Desserts can be another great way to get fruit into your child’s diet. Try our recipes for young children here and for older children in schools here.

And don’t forget to visit out Take Two campaign – click on the Facebook link to share your tips on getting children and teens to tuck into at least two portions of fruit and veg at lunchtime.

Claire’s one of our nutritionists – here to help anyone wanting advice on feeding children well. Email Claire.

Morphy Richards supports Let’s Get Cooking

Let’s Get Cooking at Ermysteds Grammar School in Skipton

This week we’re welcoming guest blogger, Tom Craik from Morphy Richards Let’s Get Cooking’s newest partner!

We strongly believe in the power of families cooking nutritious meals from scratch, from the wide health and economic benefits, to the feel-good-factor of spending quality time together in the kitchen.

At the heart of what we do is to strive to make this glorious process as simple as possible, without taking away any of the creativity and imagination associated with it. For this reason, we’ve found the perfect partner in Let’s Get Cooking!

So what’s it all about and where do we fit into the recipe?

Let’s Get Cooking is a fantastic lottery funded initiative that has worked with schools and community centres across the UK to set up a national network of  5,000 cooking clubs for children, families and their communities.

The initiative strives to give both children and adults alike the cooking skills and knowledge they need to make healthier meals from scratch.

It’s proved to be a resounding success so far, with more than 2 million people around England having been helped since its launch five years ago. It’s great to see these communities seeing a real follow on benefit from the schools too, with more than half eat a healthier diet as a result of their involvement in the clubs and nine in ten club members now using the cooking skills they’ve learned in the clubs when they’re at home.

We’re getting involved by doing what we do best, be providing innovative cooking solutions to help make people’s lives easier in the kitchen. We’ve given all Let’s Get Cooking members access to an exclusive online shop, with special discounts on our cooking products to help them on their culinary journeys.

Here’s what Jo Ross, the south west’s regional manager had to say “We’re really pleased to have Morphy Richards on board with us. Their quality range of products fit perfectly with Let’s Get Cooking, and will help members and their families achieve the best results when cooking.  The added bonus of the offered discount makes it even more affordable for families.”