Don’t forget five-a-day

21/11/2016 - 23:00
The spotlight may have shifted away from the ‘five-a-day’ message, but Rachael Venditti of school meals provider Eden Foodservice urges catering operators not to lose sight of it.

The advice to eat five or even seven portions a day of fresh produce still holds well, even if it’s not getting the exposure it was.

Dietitians still back it and many suppliers out there can help you make it easier for your customers to meet the requirement.

Encouraging pupils to eat five or even seven portions of fruit and vegetables every day can often be a challenge. However, we have found that through pupil tastings and reward stickers, children are indeed willing to try new foods.

This is the key issue; encouraging a child to try something new. Once they have tried a dish and realise it actually tastes great, they then become more open to trying different types of food.

We have found that by offering two different vegetable options each day, we can ensure that the produce varies and is also recognisable. Typical favourites would be carrots and broccoli.

One technique we use to engage children in eating vegetables is to add additional portions to a wide range of main course dishes. To give you an example, our base tomato sauce includes a blend of six fresh vegetables for use in dishes such as pizzas.

We also use this technique with our desserts, as we look to add extra fruit above and beyond the minimum guidance of twice a week.

By incorporating vegetables in desserts such as carrots, sweet potato, courgettes and beetroot, we can create really exciting dishes for the children. A good example of this is our chocolate, beetroot and sweet potato brownies, which pupils absolutely love.

We have found that offering salad bars alongside other vegetable options also provides children with a wide range of vegetables that are often served in a way that does not put off more fussy children.

For example, items can be served separately, rather than as a mixed salad, allowing children to choose exactly what they like.

Visual appeal of fruit and vegetables is incredibly important when securing buy-in from pupils. We serve fresh fruit daily and present it in attractive ways, such as in large fruit platters where pupils can help themselves to a range of items.

In addition, we recently introduced ‘Fruity Friday’ to the majority of our schools. This has allowed us to introduce more unusual fruits such as pineapple or watermelon, alongside a small traybake for dessert. We developed this initiative to support pupils who may not typically take fruit as an option.

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