The importance of freshly cooked food for children
Updated: Nov 12
We’re officially well into autumn and getting dangerously close to winter. For all of us, this means shorter days, less lovely warm days out, and definitely less beach time. However, this does also mean a massive increase in evenings spent bundled up on the sofa, mugs of hot chocolate and late nights spent watching movies with the kids, and that sounds more than alright to us.
The main issue this winter for families across the country is going to be food insecurity. In a time where parents are already struggling to make ends meet, the news that free school meals will stop has made a bad situation even worse. We’re currently working on new ways to support families through this, and we’ve been so proud to see people across the country going above and beyond the call of duty to support children and families in their local area. The impact that having that security will have on the children is unimaginable, not just physically in terms of getting nutrition, but the mental security of having food through the winter and knowing that whatever happens their community can support them. It might not be gourmet meals, but for families looking to make it through to Spring, it’s a blessing.
The winter months also mean that some of the lovely fresh food we’ve become so accustomed to getting our hands on is now out of season. But don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to get the same amount of nutrients into your child’s diet, without having to sacrifice the benefits of fresh fruit and veg, which surprisingly is often not always the cheapest option for some. Canned and preserved foods should not be dismissed, and research has proven time and time again that frozen or preserved options can be just as healthy as fresh, if not better. If you’re able to access and afford in-season foods, then we recommend doing so, but many families are now fortunate to have enough alternative options available in supermarkets and grocery shops that means they don’t have to forsake their kids’ nutrition.
Replacing the raw nutrition of freshly harvested food is always a challenge, especially for families who find it tricky to replace fresh fruit and veg with alternatives during the months that they are off-season. Unprocessed foods hold more nutritional value than processed or even cooked food, so when possible it’s a great idea to include some raw fruit and veg for the nutrition and vitamins. These foods also have a much lower fat and unnatural sugar content, helping with balancing a child’s diet. Additionally, the natural sugars might just be a great way to convince a little one to get some fruit in them. If all else fails, spread some honey on some chopped fruit and they won’t be able to tell the difference between that and a sweet treat!
During the winter months, we recommend planning your shops in advance. Making sure you are getting enough fruit and veg to last you and the littles until the next shop run. We’ve also found that the lockdown has had the happy side-effect of much more time to cook at home, and we’d absolutely recommend doing more of that. A home-cooked meal will always be the healthiest option, and it’s a great chance to get the kids involved in their diet. They learn so much by example, so by showing them how it’s done, we’re all hopefully teaching them good habits for the future.
Getting your hands on properly fresh food is going to be more difficult heading into the new year, sure, but that doesn’t mean for one second that you can’t find good ways to keep healthy over the period. Make sure to get as much fruit and veg as possible, and to stay away from overly preserved or fatty alternatives. It might be tough at times, but with the massive impact that nutrition has on a child’s development, it’s more than worth it. We’d also recommend our partner Nature & Nurture to make sure your little ones are getting all the right vitamins they need, especially in the most delicate early stages of their development.
Stay strong this winter, the work you’re doing is more than worth it when your little one grows up big, strong, and most importantly, healthy.
If you need extra help there are multiple amazing organizations helping you put food on the table.
We've included a budget weekly shopping list, please be aware this list is a general list and hasn't been calculated for specific dietary needs. To edit it and get this info please use the Mini Mealtimes app.