The Little Lunches team have carefully designed our Nursery menus to meet the requirements set out in Setting the Table guidelines for early years nutrition, see our section in the Nursery area. We use a wide variety of food groups, champion vegetables throughout our meals and work hard to ensure our food is really yummy without the need for added salt or refined NME sugars.
Our nursery menu operates on a 3 weekly cycle to provide a broad food offering for our Nursery children. Our menu changes twice each year (during March & September) so that we can incorporate plenty of seasonal produce when it is at its very best. We are conscious that early years children can sometimes find change to be overwhelming especially when it comes to mealtimes. To provide a reference for the children through the seasonal menu change, we like to keep a few of the ‘firm favourites’ through the seasons. We do this because we feel that it is important to maintain an element of familiarity whilst introducing new dishes and broadening the food experiences for the children in a safe and comforting way.
Children aged 1-5 years have a high requirement for vitamins and minerals due to their rapid rate of growth and bone development and high activity levels during these years. Perhaps surprisingly, pre-school aged children require a higher proportion of nutrients and calories per kilo of body weight than a grown man. A healthy diet for young children therefore differs from that of older children and adults.
The Voluntary Food and Drink Guidelines for Early Years settings highlights that desserts, puddings, and cakes with cereals such as rice or oats, milk and fruit can be included as part of a healthy, balanced diet for young children. With this in mind, we include a variety of different puddings balanced across the 3 week menu cycle.
When we are designing our menus, we often begin with a traditional dish that may in its standard form contain added refined sugar. We don’t just stop there though! We adapt and refine our pudding recipes and ingredient quantities to remove NME sugars in favour of sourcing sweetness from other foods that are naturally sweet. We also use refined sugar alternatives such as stevia extract and agave nectar in small quantities in some of our puddings. During our recipe testing, we are really committed to ensuring that our adapted recipes produce a finished dish that is delicious and true to the original version.
Should parents prefer their children to receive just fruit for pudding in place of desserts containing small amounts of refined sugar, we are happy to accommodate this. However, when the guidelines were developed, it was found that children who only receive fruit as a pudding were not getting enough calories, carbohydrates or nutrients such as zinc and iron which are required for healthy growth and immunity. A variety of different dessert options can help to meet these requirements.
Moreover, at Little Lunches, we believe that establishing an approach of “everything in moderation” from an early age is an important building block for healthy eating in later life.
Please note that the guidelines for children between ages 1-5 years are different for those under 1 year. The Department of Health recommends that all added sugar is avoided for children under 12 months of age, and we can supply fruit only puddings upon request.
We love to use lots of fresh & raw fruit and vegetables in our lunches and teas as these are a brilliant way to provide textural variety and a rainbow of colour on our children’s plates. We carefully prepare our raw fruit and vegetables so that they are safe for our littlies who are new to food exploration.
We also have a “zero honey” policy at little lunches, which means that all children as soon as they begin their weaning journey can eat from our main menu.
All of this means that parents who have chosen to follow baby led weaning for their littlies can be assured that Little Lunches meals are suitable for babies who are completely new to food right through to the older nursery children. (We have also heard from our Nurseries that the staff get to enjoy the leftovers on the rare occasions that the children leave them some)!
We have designed a lovely puree menu for children who are following traditional weaning and are not quite ready for the main Little Lunches menu. Our Purees are homemade and are made from a range of seasonal fruit and vegetables and are frozen in individual portions so that they can be easily stored and used as required. Nurseries can order mixed flavor puree boxes as part of their weekly order to be delivered on their specified days alongside their nursery meals.
At Little Lunches we work with Nurseries and Parents to understand the specific dietary requirements of children.
We always aim to provide a version of the standard menu dish that looks and feels the same for every child with specific dietary requirements to enjoy, because, why should they not get to have the same meal as their friends just because they can’t have one of the ingredients within the standard recipe???
We believe that this inclusive approach to managing dietary needs is so very important as we have seen in our nursery settings that a significant contributing factor towards achieving positive engagement at mealtimes comes from all the children being offered the same sort of food together as a fun, social and developmental part of their day. (Of course if we feel in any instance that we are unable to provide similar alternative versions of one of our dishes within a child’s specific requirements then we are completely committed to coming up with a suitable alternative and we will do this through dialogue with both the nursery and parents).
Allergen management is a minefield in any food related business. It’s right at the top of our agenda at Little Lunches because with Littlies, we have to be so very careful that we take all possible steps to minimise the risk in this important area. The recent Pret a Manger tragedy is a huge reminder that we can never become complacent in this space.
Our commitment to Nurseries on allergen management is that we