Recently, our training team hosted a webinar all about our new Tastes and Texture resource for early years.
We all have food preferences, those flavours that get us salivating and those that make us wrinkle our noses at their sight. For me, salted peanuts or a spinach and paneer curry have me reaching for more; strong meaty pâtés make my stomach churn. I grew up in a vegetarian household and there wasn’t much pâté on my free school dinner plate – those early associations are strong.
With recent research from First Steps1 Nutrition showing that more than half of 2 to 5 year-olds’ calorie intake comes from ultra-processed foods (those typically high in fat, salt, sugar, hyperpalatable snacks and packaged foods), there is a risk that our youngest children are losing the taste for fresh, whole ingredients. These can be bitter, tangy, and have very unique textures.
Our new resource, launched in one of our live webinars, provides settings with practical, playful ways to increase exposure to fresh fruit and vegetables and to explore tastes and texture.
For Food for Life schools and nurseries, a positive food environment isn’t just about the food on the plate. As Lee Harland, our resident nutritionist, stressed at the webinar: “messages about fresh, whole ingredients can be integrated throughout your setting, from the pictures on display when your families open the door in the morning to the fresh herbs for the children to snip and smell on the tables.”
As the new Government guidance on Feeding Young Children 1-5 years2 emphasises, repetition and regular exposure to unfamiliar tastes and textures is a really important priority in developing early ‘acceptability’ (our willingness to eat a food). Taking the pressure off children, making fresh fruit and vegetables something to grow, chop, smell, paint with, is an important part of that exposure. As one of the attendees at our webinar shared: “We got our cook to start growing vegetables with the children and it’s had a massive impact on what they’ll eat.”
Some of the simple suggestions contained in our resource include:
- Eat together
- Remove pressure
- Encourage self-service
- Talk about food
- Avoid negative comments – remember you’re a role model!
- Our Food for Life Learning & Skills Hub
- TastEd’s range of sensory food education resources
- Read Bee Wilson’s brilliant book, First Bite
- ‘UPFs account for 61% of total mean energy intake of UK children aged two to five’ - https://www.firststepsnutrition.org/upfs-marketed-for-infants-and-young-children