This feature stems from a really insightful talk we attended at Mabel’s nursery last week, they are further improving their menu choices to include a wider range of options and will be using less (to almost no) refined sugar where possible. Before I begin in detail, my personal experience and choices as a mother with regards my daughter’s diet are exactly that – I’m not here to pass judgment on others or indeed pretend I’m an expert on nutrition. I’m not. I do however find the whole subject of healthier eating really interesting, and I think it’ll make a popular topic for debate.

Unlike me the founder of Mabel’s nursery (they have two in the area) is a qualified nutritionist so it’s high on her list of priorities that the littles in her care are offered what she and the team perceive  are the healthiest breakfasts, lunches and dinners possible, without compromising on taste or variety. Taking into account all sorts of restrictions that come with batch cooking and transportation I presume – the food is made by an outside catering firm and not on site. And of course the various cost implications.

Within each “day” there are 7 portions* of fruit and vegetables – I say portions, this is what was stipulated but I have no idea what qualifies as a “portion” for say, a 20 month old. Regardless, the children are always offered 7 different types of vegetable/and or fruit throughout each day. All meals are cooked from fresh without any unnecessary additives or preservatives, they use gluten free produce where possible so incorporate lentils, quinoa and chick peas in place of white pasta and rice.  And your regular white granulated sugar is exchanged for natural un-refined sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup.

They ‘hide” vegetables in particular in order to endeavour to encourage the children to eat them – during the meeting we were offered a huge selection of generous samples to try including a courgette brownie and a carrot cake that was distinctly very carrot-y….but delicious all the same. The nursery also offer Thai and Indian style cuisine as well as a vegetarian option should you request that your child doesn’t eat meat. One of the founder’s other strong beliefs is that within the curriculum, children learn about how food is made and that it’s not necessarily from a packet in the supermarket – so they’ll have an activity where they make hummus for example and then well…eat it I guess.

The talk and update to the nursery menu stemmed from concerns raised by various parents on the fact children are offered two “puddings” a day – one after lunch and one after dinner. The nursery wanted to highlight what the desserts actually were, that they were not packed full of nasties and that should you request it, your child can always have the option of fresh fruit and/or natural yoghurt instead. From various notices on Mabel’s classroom wall I was aware that quite a few of the children were not allowed a dessert at all (there are polaroids of each child with any allergies/specific requests written underneath) and James and I did discuss this as a possibility for Mabel. Our conclusion was that we didn’t want her to be in a position where she was seeing another child have something that she would enjoy/wanted to try and not understand why she couldn’t.

I was really impressed with the nursery’s attitude towards healthy eating and their care and consideration over providing nutritious and varied meals. Outside of nursery where possible Mabel enjoys home cooked food and we try to encourage her to eat a plenty of fruit and vegetables. Like most children, she can be fussy and faddy – one week she’ll have seconds of a certain dish and the next minute she will refuse to eat it full stop. And I don’t deny her anything. On occasion as a treat I might offer her some cake, chocolate buttons or good heavens…..maybe even a custard cream biscuit. I believe in balance and everything in moderation. Of course I would much rather she requested an orange than a slice of Victoria Sponge and at present that appears to be the case. But I also don’t want her to ever feel that she may be missing out.

Some queries I have over the recent nursery menu meeting that I am yet to fathom:

  • Apparently the main offending menu item that highlighted was in fact….custard. The nursery sometimes pair it with banana. I had never considered it to be a problem food, especially as they only offer it once or twice a week.
  • All this delicious and nutritious loveliness and Mabel still comes home after nursery and has another meal….so I guess she must still be hungry. Go figure.

I would love to hear about how much you know about your nursery of choice thoughts and practices when it comes to nutrition and diet, I must confess to being quite ignorant (naive?) until this point, I assumed quite a lot rather than actually having any real knowledge. With the constant juggle of family life it’s truly challenging to try and fit all of this new information in my sleep deprived brain.