Every parent wants to give their child the most nutritional food to give them a head start in life. Some parents may have views on whether fresh fruit and vegetables are better than frozen fruit and vegetables. Unfortunately the case for which contains more nutrients is not clear cut.
Freezing food does not in itself destroy mineral or vitamin levels - levels are preserved until the produce thaws. Vitamins and minerals are destroyed by heating, however, meaning that levels start to diminish as soon as you start cooking the food. Some frozen foods are blanched or heated prior to being frozen in order to protect them and this could start destroying nutrient levels, although industrial processes are generally refined enough nowadays to keep levels at their optimum.
There's a strange twist to the tale when it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables. Much produce travels from all over the world to reach our supermarket shelves - bananas from South America, beans from Africa, Strawberries from the Middle East...just look at the packaging and you'll be surprised! Many of these items are picked before they ripen fully and ripen on their long journey to our shelves. This means that they aren't as nutritious as they would have been had they been allowed to ripen naturally on their plants. Frozen foods, on the other hand, are picked at their prime, once they have ripened fully in the fields or orchards, and arguably therefore start with higher vitamin and mineral levels than for some fresh produce.
Of course, there's no way to look at produce and know how it has been prepared before reaching our shelves. The best thing you can do is to minimise the 'air miles' that your produce has racked up in transit. Buy fresh produce that has been grown in local markets and it should be the best all round!
Babies will usually eat almost any food put in front of them, but as the ygrow older, children become more discerning about their food, fussy even! If you can encourage your children to eat a broad array of food then life iwll be so much easier. Meal times won't resemble a battlefield, you'll find it easier to eat with other families or out in restaurants, and you won't have any concerns that your little ones are eating a balanced diet.
Grocers and supermarkets offer a huge variety of different types of fruit and vegetables, but we are often creatures of habit, regularly buying only a small selection of fruit and veg that we know well. For example, fruit may be restricted to apples, bananas, grapes and oranges and vegetables to potatoes, broccoli, carrots and peas.
Why not try to broaden your little one's tastes by holding a week long 'Fruit and Vegetable Fiesta' in your home? See if you can introduce one new type of fruit and one new type of vegetable with your main meal, each day for a week. You could try old favourites that your little ones may not have had in a while, or you could seek out some of the really exotic foods that are now widely stocked in our shops.
Here are some suggestions for uncommon and more unusual fruit and vegetables, see if you can slip some of these into your Fruit and Vegetable Fiesta. Scour the fresh food department next time your in the supermarket and see what else you can try...!
|Passion fruit||Star fruit||Corn on the cob||Bok choy|
|Watermelon||Dragon fruit||Celery||Pinto beans|
OK, so the notion of playing in meadows probably harks back to a romantic Victorian era, but there are lots of games and japes that can be played in the park! Exploring wild flowers and plants helps children discover new things. Here are some fun elements to explore next time you're walking in the park, or passing through any outdoor areas:-
Sticky Bombs and Darts: Explore some of the fascinating seeds that can stick to you. Nature has created these so that they stick to passing animals such as birds and foxes. The seeds are then dispersed by the host animal when they fall off later. Look out for teazles and goose grass, also grass spears that have gone to seed can cling on with their tiny hooks. Great for older kids to throw at each other!
Firing Bombs: Look out for plantains which have a tall stem and a seed head on top. Pick one with a long stem and tie a knot in it. Pull the stem near the head through the small hole and the head will fire off in the opposite direction...hours of fun!
Butterlicious: Do you like butter? Hold a buttercup under your little ones chin and if it reflects a shiny yellow gleam then they like butter! Have your little ones do this on you, they love this simple trick.
Telling the Time: Pick a dandelion that has gone to furry seed. Count how many puffs it takes to disperse all the seeds. Each puff represents an hour, so four puffs suggests that the time is four o'clock. Hmm, perhaps digital clocks are slightly more accurate!
Daisy Chains: Great for developing fine motor skills, but probably not a good activity for the very youngest! Pick a handful of daisies and make a chain by carefully splitting the stem and passing the stem of the next daisy through. Make a necklace and bracelet for your youngest children.
Fairies: Keep an eye open for 'fairies', fluffy seeds from dandelions or other plants just floating past on a warm day.
Nectar: Find some 'dead nettles', the flowering nettles that don't sting, and pull off one of the flowers. Suck the base of the flower and you will taste the nectar which is just like honey. Look for clover plants and do the same, pull off a clump of the petals and suck nectar from the base.
Fruit Picking: Look out for wild fruit later in the season. Wild blackberries are very common but beware the thorns on the brambles. Look out for other fruit trees that might be growing wild, such as cherries, plums, apples and pears. You may find other soft fruits like blackcurrants and redcurrants.
Do you remember any old games that you used to play in your own childhood?
An ice cream cone full of lovely swirly ice cream can be an expensive treat for little ones when you are out, so why not save the money, invest in some treats and serve unique ice creams at home instead!
Get some ice cream cones and simple vanilla ice cream. Invite the children to use a spoon to ease out some ice cream and mash it down into the cone.
Put a selection of the following in some little dishes and let the children create!
- Coloured or chocolate sprinkles
- Chocolate buttons
- Fruit drops
- Blueberries or raspberries or strawberries
- Fruity sauce
Invite your little ones to be creative... look into the dishes and describe the shape and colour of what they see. Pink and yellow strands, brown round buttons etc. You could let them taste each one too and ask what it tastes like? Then, let them loose to decorate their ice creams
This activity is learning new words (as well as enjoying a tasty treat!) so for each bowl use and encourage words to describe what you are doing. "Sprinkle" the coloured sprinkles; "pop in" the chocolate buttons; "dip" in the fruit drops; "place" the berries; "dollop" the sauce etc.
Talk about the texture of the ice cream and the taste of the toppings. Use lovely descriptive words that describe the what your doing in a new and fun way.
'Pick your own' fruit and vegetable farms make for a wonderful day out, and it's only as expensive as your appetite is big! This time of year is perfect for taking the children along to a farm and sharing with them the delight of picking and digging their own crops. If you don't know of any PYO farms near you, then use Google to try and find one.
Crops on offer will vary from farm to farm, but typically you'll find:-
- Berries which might include raspberries, strawberries, redcurrants, blackcurrents, blackberries etc.
- Other fruits such as apples, pears and plums
- Vegetables like carrots, cabbages, cauliflowers, spinach, sweetcorn, potatoes and onions
- Various beans: peas, broad beans, dwarf beans, runner beans, french beans, mange tout and sugar snap peas
- Squashes such as butternut squash, courgettes, marrows and pumpkins
The crops on offer will vary throughout the season which will run from around May to October time.
Children will delight in the fun of a day out at a fruit and vegetable farm, and the experience of choosing and picking their own produce helps them to learn about the food cycle. When you're out in the fields at a farm, you can undertake other activities too to extend your trip.
Don't forget to take your camera and upload pictures of your day into your Daily Diary at ToucanLearn!
On a hot day, the children will enjoy nothing more than a lovely refreshing ice lolly but rather than spending a fortune on shop bought ones throughout the summer, why not make your own at home? At least you know what's gone into them and can make sure that they are healthy! Start by buying some lolly sticks and moulds from a supermarket or other store. Here are some recipe ideas:-
- Fruit juice lollies: for the most simple lollies, just pour fruit juice into the mould and insert a stick. Beware that pineapple juice doesn't freeze on its own but you can mix it with other juices. Make multi-coloured lollies by pouring in a little orange juice, let that freeze for a few hours, then add a red juice (blackcurrant, raspberry, cranberry etc).
- Make traffic light lollies by layering pureed strawberry, pureed peach and pureed kiwi on top of one another, freezing for about 2 hours between each layer. If you find they need sweetening, add a little honey to each puree.
- Yoghurts and fromage frais freeze into delicious creamy lollies - pour the contents into your moulds or, for the little fromage frais pots, simply take off the lid, place a lolly stick in and freeze them in their own pots!
- Fruit smoothies also make for a delicious frozen feast, if you have your own juicer then juice a variety of fruits and banana to create your own fruit smoothie and freeze to make lovely lollies!
- Make milk lollies by using a milk base and flavouring with fruit puree or even cocoa. Semi-skimmed milk freezes better than full fat milk, just make up a milk drink and pour into your moulds.
- Frozen bananas make a novel change from lollies, just peel a bananana, wrap it loosely in foil and place in the freezer. Either enjoy them as they are or use them as toppings on yoghurt or other puddings - frozen bananas have a lovely creamy texture to them, almost like ice-cream!
Once you're in the habit of making your own lollies, you'll start experimenting by freezing all sorts of drink, fruit and yoghurt combinations! Be creative and give the children a summer treat!
Recent tests demonstrated that children are more likely to eat fruit if it looks good - children were offered the same types and portions of fruit served in different ways; the more 'attractively' presented it was, the more popular it was.
The researchers studied 100 children at schools in the Netherlands and Belgium and discovered that presentation really did matter. The authors say that parents and schools should follow suit and make fruit look appealing in order to encourage children to eat more of it! The children were aged between four and seven years old and were invited to eat apples, strawberries, and grapes.
Here are our suggestions for presenting fruit in fun ways:
Fruity hedgehog - thread fruit pieces onto cocktail sticks and pop into an orange or potato to make a hedgehog. Add a few grapes as eyes and a slice of cucumber as a mouth.
Pretty plate - put the fruit on a special plate. Buy fun shaped plastic plates and always serve fruit on these special plates.
Make fruit fun - serve different colours of fruit and cut into different shapes: strips, cubes, triangles, wedges, rounds.
Fruit face - have your children make funny faces out of their fruit portions
Make a scene - use fruit cut into different shapes to make a scene, maybe a boat on the waves or a house?
Get them involved - ask the children to help choose the fruit at the shop, help peel it if they can and chop it themselves!
Have lots of ideas and do things differently each time - melon boats, melon smiley face with some grapes as eyes and a nose, melon cubes made into a tower!
Do a tasting - select a few fruits and taste them together chatting about which are your favourites.
Introduce new fruits slowly - you have to see and try a new taste seven times before you are familiar with it so research says! Introduce new exotic fruits from time to time.
Baby is best - baby varieties can be sweeter than the larger options (ie baby tomatoes are really super sweet).
By the time a baby is born, its taste buds are developed and a baby has an innate sense of what foods are good, and which are bad. Breast and formula milks are sweet, and babies initially favour sweet tastes over sour or bitter flavours. Although they may taste similar, the difference between breast and formula milk is the difference between processed and natural food. The first solid foods that many children experience are also processed baby foods. The packaging will tell you that the contents are healthy and nutritional, but often the truth is that they are laden with more sugar than we would use in our own cooking, and sometimes ingredients that we wouldn't be happy to add ourselves!
There is inceasing evidence that eating high proportions of processed foods as babies leads to increased consumption of processed foods throughout life, as our tastes adapt to the foods that we eat early on. Processed foods are typically high in salt and sugar and use cheap fats with higher saturated fat content. This almost certainly plays a part in the rising instance of obesity in children and adults.
A study published in America in 2004 suggested that by the age of 2 years, one third of toddlers do not eat fruit and vegetable in any healthy form, instead being fed a diet consisting only of processed foods. Other research suggests that babies exposed to a broad range of complex flavours, provided by natural foods, grow up to eat a broad and healthy diet, which in turn contributes to a better lifestyle.
If these ideas are correct, then it reinsforces just how important it is to be feeding our little ones a broad range of foods and flavours from an early age. Don't become dependent on baby jars from the supermarket, instead, look to buying a wide selection of fruit and vegetables from which to make your own purees, and wholesome meals.