School Holidays – Healthy Food for Children?
As I sit in my office watching families trundle past on their way to the beach, laden with buckets and spades and fishing nets, mums bring up the rear carrying the picnics to be enjoyed by all. Although the weather would suggest otherwise, a day at the seaside is still fun, come rain or shine!
But what of the picnic? A walk along the promenade at the end of the day, where I have to wade through piles of rubbish and picnic detritus, reveals a lot about the way the British are feeding their children and certainly indicates the reason for the shocking rise in diabetes and obesity amongst our young. It would seem that a picnic now takes the form of pre-packed pastries, bags of savoury snacks, packets of biscuits and cakes, cans & bottles of fizzy drinks or cartons of juices, processed meats and cheeses or take-aways.
The nutritional content of all these foods, (and I use that term very loosely – chemicals would be a more realistic description), is minimal, and certainly not nutritious. On the contrary – such nutrients are known as ‘empty’ calories as they do not contain useful vitamins and minerals, let alone protein, complex carbohydrate or essential fatty acid. No – sadly these ‘foods’ contain bucket loads of refined sugar, salt, saturated fat and artificial flavourings and colourings. These types of foods will indeed give your children a quick burst of energy, but will never sustain them throughout the day, let alone contribute to their growth or health, and this leads children to be permanently on the scrounge for the next snack.
Every time sugar is consumed, insulin is released to process it to every cell in the body – to the muscles and the brain. However, the cells have a limit to how much sugar they can absorb, and if they keep being badgered by insulin to take in more than they can cope with, they become resistant to the insulin and consequently the amount of sugar in the blood remains very high and this can lead to diabetes. Moreover, excess sugar goes through a series of chemical reactions and if not burnt off through exercise, is stored around the organs as fat, thus leading to obesity.
So if you want to prepare a healthy and nutritious picnic for your children that is going to fill them up, sustain their energy and also includes some treats – after all, that is what holidays are all about, here are some ideas:
Sandwiches made with granary bread with various fillings:
Tuna & cucumber
Egg mayonnaise with tomatoes
Cheese, tomatoes and lettuce with salad cream
Ham, tomato and lettuce
Cheese, tomato and marmite
Tuna, chopped gherkins, lettuce, mayonnaise
Cooked chicken pieces
Roast a whole chicken and wrap in greaseproof paper, tin foil and a tea-towel to keep it warm. Everyone loves warm meat – you can let the children break off pieces of chicken and fill their own baguettes and hand round cherry tomatoes, slices of cucumber and a jar of mayonnaise. Alternatively, cook some chicken pieces – marinate with soya and honey/garlic and bake in the oven and take warm to the picnic.
Coronation Chicken & New potatoes
Mix cooked chicken pieces (a whole chicken is the most economical), with diced cucumber and apple. Mix some curry paste into mayonnaise and mix into the chicken, cuc, apple. Pack into a Tupperware box and take to picnic. Cook some new potatoes at home, mix with some dressing or chopped chives/red onion and pack into Tupperware. Serve with cherry tomatoes or bags of salad. (you will obviously need picnic plates/cutlery for this, but there is no wrapping/rubbish and you can take your empty cartons home again).
Hard boiled eggs – nothing more simple and an excellent source of protein.
Hoummus & Carrot sticks – snack
If time is short, you can buy tubs of hoummus from supermarkets and a bag of carrots is under a pound! Cut carrots into sticks and store in a Tupperware box. You can do the same with sweet red peppers and celery sticks. If you want to make your own hoummus, drain and rinse a tin of chick peas. Process until smooth with juice of a lemon, tsp. grd. Cumin, good glug of olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, salt/pepper to season. Store in a tuppeware and dunk with vegetable crudités.
Fruit – bags of apples/pears/peaches/nectarines – the most economical way to buy them – at around 69p (Aldi/Lidl) to £1.70 in other supermarkets, it is far cheaper than buying pre-packed and prepared fruit snack packs.
Smoked Mackerel Pate on Oat Cakes
Use a pack of smoked mackerel fillets (from supermarkets £1.20-£2), and process with juice of a lemon and a small tub of cottage cheese with chives. Season to taste and turn into a small Tupperware box. Chill. Take a packet of oat cakes and a knife and allow children to spread their own pate as and when.
DRINKS: Of course the best drink to hydrate throughout the day is water and fizzy drinks and sugary juices should be avoided as they will rot your children’s teeth and cause them to unwittingly consume large amounts of refined sugar and additives. For a treat, milk shakes are fine as they do contain calcium and it is impossible to avoid sugar completely.
As you will have noticed, most of the above require a little effort at home before you set out for the day, but the nutritional advantages are well worth the input, after all you are investing in your children’s health and future. It is worth noting that as parents we are role models for our children and they learn how to eat from us, so it is important we teach them healthy eating habits from the start of their lives. If your cupboards are filled with biscuit bars and savoury snacks, your children will grow up to believe that that is the norm; likewise if you fill your cupboards and fridge with healthy food, this will be their norm.
A little bit of what you fancy does you good! Absolutely – so why not bake them a cake, maybe some flapjack or some cookies? …… and certainly an ice-cream is a must!
Not only this, but as the containers are yours, you will want to take them home again, and that means me and other promenaders will be able to see the beach and pavements again – fantastic!