CVS launches healthy families drive!

After December, the month of excess, January and February sees us flocking to the gym in droves and looking for ways for us and our families to be healthier in the coming year.

As a Dad with a young son, it’s a huge priority of mine to ensure that he is eating healthily. To make sure my wife and I have enough time to create healthy balanced meals for Gabriel, we make everything from scratch at the weekend – which only takes a couple of hours – put them in pop-out trays and freeze them. This means we can take something out each morning for his lunch and dinner and we know exactly what’s in his food. 

[caption id="attachment_738" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Gabriel"][/caption]

Gabriel's favourite is Annabel Karmel's Cod and Spinach recipe, which he gets very excited about, as you can see! 

To help inspire parents, CVS has launched ‘Health Kick’ our special healthy families drive, where we will be offering tips, advice and ideas on our blog and interactive Facebook page. You can choose from the following articles for advice from us and our guest bloggers:

Encouraging Children to Eat More Healthily – by Annabel Karmel
Healthy snack SOS!

Family bootcamp – top tips for family fitness by personal trainer Simon Parker
‘Super’ foods for kids

We’d love you to get involved and to share your own hints, tips and recipe ideas.

Perhaps you have a clever way to encourage children to get their five-a-day? Or maybe you have some fun ideas for getting more active as a family? Whatever your experiences, we’d love to hear from you, find us at www.facebook.com/computersharevoucherservices

CVS is the UK’s largest dedicated provider of childcare vouchers. We work with thousands of parents and carers across the UK. To find out more about childcare vouchers and how they could help you save up to £1866 a year, visit www.computersharevoucherservices.com

Encouraging children to eat more healthily – by Annabel Karmel

[caption id="attachment_773" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Annabel Karmel"][/caption] Food is the fuel that powers our children. It makes them grow strong, gives them energy and plenty of opportunities to wind up their parents. If you struggle to get your children to eat healthily, don’t let frustration take over, try not to respond to bad eating habits. Your child will soon find there’s not much point making a fuss if you don’t react. Let your child be hungry sometimes. A hungry child is often a less fussy child.

Try to avoid letting children graze between meals on unhealthy snacks.  Avoiding snacks will mean they are more likely to try new foods come mealtime. However for occasions such as after school when kids come home starving, having things ready-prepared and to hand, such as raw vegetables and a dip, a pitta pocket filled with tuna, or cut up fruit, means you don’t fall back on the easy option of an empty calorie snack such as biscuits or crisps.

Remember food is not just sustenance, but can also be fun. Making food more appealing is a great way to get children trying new healthy food. It is good to be a little inventive in how we present our food. Mini portions of dishes such as cottage pie in a ramekin dish looks far more appetising than a dollop of food on a plate. Noodle or stir fry dishes are a great way to up the intake of vegetables and get them to use child friendly chopsticks. When it gets warmer you can puree fresh fruit to make your own fresh fruit ice lollies.

A great way to get your children eating healthily is by getting them in the kitchen helping you. This is quality time with your children and can make them much more interested in trying new things. Once children are a little older give them the responsibility of cooking the family meal one night, give them a simple recipe that you help them with first time round, then let them make it once a week for a month and by the end they will know how to make one dish really well and be proud of their achievement.

Annabel’s recipe for Rainbow Ribbon Noodles - makes 2 toddler portions

Omelette

[caption id="attachment_743" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Annabel's Rainbow Noodles"][/caption]

1 tbsp sunflower oil

1 egg

1 tsp soy sauce

Noodles

1 tsp water

Small clove garlic, crushed

Half tsp grated fresh ginger

1 small carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks

Quarter yellow pepper, deseeded and cut into matchsticks

Half skinny courgette cut into matchsticks

75g medium rice noodles (pad Thai type) prepared according to the packet instructions or 150g ready to use noodles

2 spring onions, thinly sliced

2 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp sweet chilli sauce

Half tsp sesame oil

Chopped fresh coriander (optional)

METHOD: Heat 1 tsp of the oil in a wok. Beat the egg, 1 tsp soy sauce and water together and add to the wok. Cook the eggs until just set and brown underneath. Break or chop into pieces and transfer to a bowl. Set aside. Heat the remaining oil in the wok and add garlic and ginger. Sizzle for 30 seconds, then add the carrot, peppers and courgette and stir fry for 3 to 4 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Add the noodles and spring onions and stir fry for 1 to 2 minutes until the noodles have heated through. Stir in the soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce and sesame oil, followed by the omelette pieces, then remove from the heat and transfer to bowls. Garnish with chopped coriander if you like.

 

Annabel Karmel is the UK's best-selling author of seventeen books on baby and children's food and nutrition. Her 'Essential Guide to Feeding your Baby and Toddler’ is available on iTunes for £3.99 with 120 recipes and 'how to' videos. For more information visit www.annabelkarmel.com

 

 These opinions are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Computershare Voucher Services.

Healthy snack SOS!

[caption id="attachment_794" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="How to keep snacks healthy, even on days out."][/caption] As part of ‘Health Kick’, our healthy families month, we are offering parents advice and tips on ways to get healthier as a family.

In this blog post we take a look at junk food danger times, when unhealthy snacks and fast food may be hard to avoid, such as family days out.

Snacks

Every parent wants their child to eat healthily, but even with the best intentions sometimes it can prove difficult - especially if you have a schedule packed with fun!

From a trip to the cinema, to family days out and long car journeys, there are a number of situations where you may find yourself tempted to reach for those high fat, high sugar foods.

When faced with rows of confectionary, nothing but fast food outlets and ‘pester power’ from the kids, it could prove difficult to resist even for the most resolute of parents!

But the good news is you can get through these ‘danger times’ with a little forward thinking – and in many cases save your bank balance as well as keeping your little ones healthy!

What are the junk food danger times?

The first step is recognising those danger times. How many of these situations have you faced?

  • Cinema trips – who can resist the bright lights of the confectionary counter, ice creams and pick’n’mix?
  • After school snack – the kids get back from school and want something the second they walk in the door, it’s all too tempting to reach for the biscuit tin
  • Days out – lunch time arrives while you’re out and about but there’s nothing but fast food outlets
  • Car journeys and service stations – desperate to keep them distracted a quick stop at the services with their sweets, drinks and fast food can suddenly seem very appealing
  • Theme park visits – from burgers and chips to candy floss, sweets and fizzy drinks, it can be a calorie-filled ride
  • Birthday parties – whether you have 5 or 20 children attending, the table could easily fill with crisps, cakes and other goodies

Getting prepared

The best way to breeze through these times is to be prepared. To help you we have compiled a list of quick and easy snacks, which can be used for almost any of these occasions, as a healthy alternative - whilst still being super tasty!

Homemade popcorn – Fun to make and fun to eat! What’s not to love as a healthy alternative to crisps? Popcorn can easily be made at home, either in the microwave or saucepan, and the kids will love listening and watching as each little corn explodes. This tasty treat can still be delicious without the traditional sugar or butter. Great for: Birthday Parties, Cinema trips, After School snacks.

Fruit & Vegetable bites – Carrot, cucumber, celery, pepper and anything else you fancy, along with berries and grapes, are great when you’re on the go or as an addition to your child’s lunch box. It’s an easy way to add extra fruit and vegetables into your child’s diet. To make it a little more exciting why not add a little houmous or cottage cheese for dipping. Great for: Birthday Parties, After School, Picnics/Days Out, Lunch Box, Car Journeys. 

Trail Mix – Nuts and dried fruit are another healthy snack option which is filling and releases energy for your child. Mix nuts, seeds and dried fruit such as raisins and cranberries can give your child a healthy and sweet treat. Great for: Lunch Box, Car Journeys, Picnics/Days Out, Cinema, After School. 

Taste the Rainbow – How many different coloured fruits and vegetables can your child eat in one day? Make it a competition for the whole family to take part in and reap the rewards which each different food gives you. Turning this into a game will help encourage fussier or less adventurous eaters to discover new foods they might not usually eat, such as blueberries or gooseberries. Great for: Lunch Boxes, After School, Picnics/Days Out, Car Journeys.

You will find more helpful hints and tips on our Facebook page and remember to share your own hints and tips to help inspire other parents.

You may be surprised to learn that you can use childcare vouchers towards the cost of days out, with vouchers covering a range of registered childcare including some of the top child activity centres - and it’s not just for toddlers, the vouchers can be used for children up to the age of 16. For more details, visit www.computersharevoucherservices.com.

‘Super’ foods for kids

To help you ensure your child is getting all the nutrients, vitamins and energy they need to develop and grow, we have put together this short guide to some of the top ‘super foods’ for children. However, the hardest part can be getting them to give them a try so we’ve included some suggestions here, but do you have any good tips? Leave us a comment below.

Spinach – It’s not just Popeye who can benefit from this leafy vegetable! Spinach is a great source of calcium, iron and is rich in antioxidants. Try blending into soups, chopping and mixing into pasta sauces or mixing into salads.

Blueberries – This fabulous super food is low in calories and high in fibre, vitamin C and antioxidants. Put a handful into a lunchbox, or mix into yoghurt. 

Sweet potato – This colourful vegetable is full of fibre and immunity boosting antioxidants, vitamins C and E. Try as an alternative to roast or mash potato, or as an amazing soup.

Nectarines – These little oranges are bursting with vitamin C, important for a strong immune system and the development of healthy bones, teeth, gums and blood vessels. Vitamin C also helps the body absorb iron and calcium, helps cuts to heal and keeps the brain working properly. Try adding to jelly before it sets for a fruity dessert or adding to a lunch box.

Broccoli – Another great source of calcium, broccoli is also packed with vitamin C and fibre.  Chop up small and put into pasta sauces or mix into mashed potato.

Watercress - Gram for gram it contains more vitamin C than oranges, more iron than spinach and more calcium than milk! Add to salads, sandwiches, soup, pasta or stir fries.

Yoghurt – An amazing source of calcium, which is important for strong teeth and bones. Pour over fresh fruit or cereal, or just enjoy as a quick snack.

Oats – Give your child the strength and energy they need to get through the day. Packed full of vitamin B and zinc, which helps to promote a healthy immune system. Start the day with a steaming bowl of freshly cooked oatmeal, try adding some fresh fruit pieces on top for sweetness, or a teaspoon of honey.

Baked beans – Baked beans are a good source of fibre, which is great for the digestive system. The tomato sauce can also count as one of your kids’ five-a-day. Beans are so versatile they can be added to most meals, served with mash, on toast and even cold!

If you’re looking for more advice on getting your children to try new things, read our guest blog from Annabel Karmel, leading child nutritionist and best-selling author.