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Children at Just Childcare nurseries have been taking home recipe bags to enjoy meat-free meals with their families as part of the Meat Free Monday initiative.
The recipe bags are being rolled out across all 34 nurseries in the group and provide parents and families with instructions and all of the ingredients they need to cook a meat-free meal with their children.
Just Childcare has been participating in the Meat Free Monday initiative since 2015, which sees nurseries operate a healthy four-week rotating seasonal menu where every Monday is completely meat-free. The group is part of a growing number of nurseries opting to enjoy a meat-free day once a week or go vegetarian.
The launch of the Winter Recipe Bag is part of the group's plans to introduce seasonal recipe bags throughout the year. The bag is filled with ingredients and directions for preparing Carrot and Lentil Soup, a vegetarian soup created by catering manager Mark Webster, and taken from the group's healthy seasonal menu.
Mr Webster said: “It’s so important for children to understand that fresh vegetables can be transformed into something really tasty. By involving them in the cooking process we’re encouraging an understanding of where healthy food comes from, helping them to make healthy decisions in the future.
“All of the meals and snacks we serve at our nurseries are prepared using fresh ingredients, which are locally sourced where possible. We use a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, meat and fish in our recipes - encouraging our children to try lots of different tastes and textures.”
'Numerous benefits to cooking with children'
Just Childcare offer freshly prepared healthy meals at all of their settings and chefs can cater to suit any vegetarian, vegan or special dietary requirements. The group have launched the meat-free recipe bags to help children understand that meals do not have to contain meat to be tasty and nutritionally balanced.
Recognising that preparing a meal with a young helper can take longer than cooking alone, the recipe bags include everything that is needed to prepare a meal, making it easier for children to get involved.
The recipe bags are being distributed throughout Just Childcare nurseries during winter and Little Manor Private Day Nursery, Runcorn is one of the first settings to take part.
Nursing manager at the setting, Carla Lawrenson said: “We often cook with the children at our nursery because it helps them to understand how fresh and healthy ingredients can be transformed into something really tasty.
“By letting children experience and enjoy the cooking process, we’re helping them to understand where nutritious meals come from. This not only encourages a love of cooking but helps children to make healthy decisions in the future.
Developing fine motor skills and learning about food hygiene
“Cooking with children has many more benefits. It helps develop their fine motor skills, teaches them about good food hygiene and gives them experience in handling kitchen tools safely.
“We find that fussy eaters tend to be much more open to trying new food when they have helped to make it themselves too!”
Mr Webster continued: “There are numerous benefits to cooking with children, from promoting independence to showing them how to use kitchen tools safely. It’s also something fun that the whole family can do together, with the added benefit of a delicious meal at the end.
“We wanted to make it as easy as possible for our busy families to cook a healthy meal together. The recipe bags include all of the ingredients, a recipe card for grown-ups, a visual recipe card for children and clear allergen advice. The Carrot and Lentil Soup from our Meat Free Monday menu was perfect for this as it demonstrates how a few fresh, healthy and inexpensive ingredients can be easily transformed into a fantastic vegetarian meal.”
The group are encouraging parents and families to share photos of them making their soup on Facebook and Twitter using the #soupselfie hashtag.
For more information on the Meat Free Monday initiative visit: http://www.meatfreemondays.com/get-involved/ or search #MeatFreeMonday on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.