Episode 22 – Kids Nutrition With Jenna & Yasmin Of The Yoghurt & Juice Network
00:25 – Why Jenna and Yasmin founded The Yoghurt & Juice Network
05:07 – The Yoghurt & Juice Network covers the whole childhood age range
09:16 – What a healthy balanced diet for kids looks like
15:50 – It takes 15–20 exposures for a child to decide whether they like a food
18:10 – Helping busy parents make simple changes to implement healthy diets
21:58 – Ideas on how to start a kid’s day with a healthy breakfast
28:54 – Jenna and Yasmin give recommendations for packed lunches
32:40 – Experiment over the weekend and involve your children
35:27 – Suggestions around evening meals for the family
41:18 – How to ensure everyone is sufficiently hydrated throughout the day
46:07 – Five key actions to improve your children’s nutrition today
49:06 – Jamie Oliver’s Bite Back 2030 campaign
Welcome to the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast where you can learn how to improve your diet, lose fat and get fitter in a sustainable and fun way, without spending hours in the gym. Here’s your host, Darren Kirby.
Darren: This is Episode 22 of the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast. In today’s show, we’re going to be discussing children’s health and nutrition, which is something I am very passionate about. Joining me on the show today is Jenna and Yasmin from the Yoghurt & Juice Network. The idea for the network was born during a long car journey where founders and nutritionists, Yasmin and Jenna were fed up of listening to the responsibility of the current state of children’s health being passed between parents, schools, industry and government.
As a result, they decided to take on some of the responsibility themselves by creating the Yoghurt & Juice network and providing credible nutritional education at first hand to children, parents and teachers. Hi, ladies. Thanks very much for joining me on today’s show.
Jenna: Thank you for having us.
Yasmin: Hi, Darren, thanks. We’re excited to be here.
Darren: Yeah. It’s a topic which, as I said off air, I’m very passionate about and I think it’s fantastic that you ladies have created the network that you have to give parents and children a resource, really, to go and find out a little bit more about this because I think it’s an area which is massively, massively overlooked. We all talk about health and nutrition, but the little people in our lives are as important and we all want them to do well at schools yet it’s amazing how that’s not the focus even in the school system. So for people that don’t necessarily know anything about you, can we get some background on you, ladies?
Jenna: Of course. We are two nutritionists and we met at university, and then we went our separate ways and we came back together to form the Yoghurt & Juice Network. And really at the network, we aim to actively inspire and empower children and young people in the UK to make healthier dietary and lifestyle choices. But what we’re really passionate about is that with that, we really think that you have to implement nutrition education to the parents as well. So it really does trickle through and like you were saying off air as well, how your journey in itself has really had an effect on your children. Sometimes the parents don’t realize what an effect they can have and how much their behaviours are affecting their children. So really, it’s just about that positive reinforcement and showing parents and kids that it doesn’t have to be hard work, it doesn’t have to be boring. I think often healthy eating is associated with boring and plain and tasteless, but it’s really not about that for us at all.
Darren: Yeah, I agree. Sorry, go on.
Yasmin: I was just going to add to that, that also the children of today… Okay, yeah, we want them to do well at school and we want them to be as healthy as possible but they’re actually our next generation and their children will be the next generation. So it’s also about implanting these healthy messages from as young as possible so they really get the best chance of being a healthy nation going forward, even when we’re all not here. Just really having a knock on effect on everyone else’s life that’s to come as well.
Darren: Yeah, I think that’s really important because we send them off to school every day and we want them to do well, and everything else. And yet, I’m amazed at the fact that… For me, it’s quite profound in a sense that it’s like a car. If you don’t fuel your body correctly, like a car, you don’t fuel a car correctly, then it’s not necessarily going to perform in the way you want it.
Yeah, all these little people that we send to school every day, in some cases, we’re not fuelling them correctly. So how can we expect them to operate and learn in the way in which we want them to? So yeah, I completely agree. In terms of how you’ve created the network, can you give us a bit of background? Obviously, you said the network is there for education, advice and information, but give us some kind of context around the network and actually what it does on a day to day basis.
Yasmin: Okay, yeah, of course. So, as Jenna said, we are both nutritionists. We started our journey into nutrition, I guess, really together and then we’ve done kind of separate postgraduate qualifications. We’re both really passionate about educating children and we both work with adults in our private practices, but we actually love working with children and there’s never a dull moment when you’re in a school, when you’re working with kids, just because they’re so entertaining. The things that they come up with sometimes really surprise us in a good way and a lot of them have amazing knowledge around nutrition.
So what we primarily do at the Yoghurt & Juice Network is go into schools or nurseries, colleges, universities. We cover the whole childhood age range and we deliver exciting and fun workshops–that’s in person delivery within the schools. We sometimes offer assemblies and parent workshops but the majority, we would say, is kind of workshops within the classroom.
We will educate the children, normally using our PowerPoint slides and then we, nine times out of 10, will always do a recipe demo. As much as we think it’s important that children understand, we might all know that we should be recommended to eat five a day of our fruits and vegetables, but actually why, what does that look like, how can they get that in? We think that that’s really important.
The demo is just really to show them how easy things are and how it doesn’t, like Jenna said, it doesn’t need to be boring, it doesn’t need to be hard. And they’re always really shocked when we take in some of our equipment and do the recipes. They’re really surprised at how easy it is and then how nice it tastes. That’s kind of our in-school delivery. And then Jenna, do you want to talk through?
Jenna: Yeah. In addition to that, I think we’re really aware of not making it another lesson for them. So it is very much about engaging them, activities, games, making it really interactive. We bring a whole load of different equipment: if we’re working with very young children, then we bring in a range of cuddly toys that are in the shape of vegetables, and that goes down really well with them.
One of the things that we also hear back a lot is from the teachers. And actually we went into a school last week and since we did our recipe demonstration there, the teacher has come back to us and told us that she’s made our recipe for breakfast every day. Before that, she wouldn’t touch overnight oats. We’re also really trying to work with the teachers as well, because we think that when you’re educating children, particularly when it comes to their food and their dietary habits, you really have to take a 360 approach and get everyone else on board, in their lives as well. That’s really important, too.
Darren: I agree. I think one of the biggest things that I found with our own children is that they lead by example, as well. Like you say, it’s not necessarily just going in there and making it another lesson; it’s making it fun and interactive, and children respond much more when they’re involved. And also what you said around giving them the reasons why, not “you just should because this is good for you.” Kids, we don’t give them enough credit because they’re very, very clever little people and if you can explain to them the reasons why you’re having a certain thing or you’re doing a certain thing, they’re much, much more on board with it. Actually, they’re like little sponges; they just take this stuff in automatically without you even realizing it. So yeah, I think that sounds like an amazing kind of lesson to go into schools with.
And the other point you make around teachers as well. We assume, and there’s a lot of pressure, I think, put on teachers. They’ve got all these various different topics they need to teach and we assume, because they’re teachers that they know all of this stuff, and actually they don’t. They also need the help as well.
Yasmin: Absolutely. That is so true. And that’s why also at the moment, we’re in the process of moving the network or adding another element to the network, which is very much online. We’ll be able to work with more teachers online and also more parents and more kids to make it, again, much more interactive, much more enjoyable. So that’s definitely something to stay tuned for and watch out, that’s coming from the network as well. It’s really, really exciting time.
Darren: That sounds really good. Sounds amazing. So, when we’re looking at a healthy, balanced diet, we’re obviously talking about children, but I think in general, in your opinion, what do you class as a healthy balanced diet?
Jenna: I think Darren, that is an absolutely great question because we hear this term healthy, balanced diet the whole time and actually, what does it really mean? Well, I think, firstly, not having a restrictive diet for children; for adults as well, but particularly for children. It’s really, really important because I think especially nowadays with the rise of veganism and plant based diets, children should really have their own decision and be able to make their own choices around what they choose to eat and when you start restricting their food intake, they are going to be at greater risk of nutrient deficiencies. So really, firstly, not cutting out food groups for children is essential.
Eating food that they enjoy and having fun with it is really important because children will set their opinions and their views towards food from a very, very young age. If you make it enjoyable, fun and entertaining for them, they’re much more likely to have a healthier relationship with food later on. We do try and encourage fresh meals where possible. We understand that everyone is so busy and sometimes it’s just not possible but on the whole if you can, cook with the kids and get them involved to make healthy fresh meals and that will incorporate a source of protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and lots of vegetables.
We’re all about trying to incorporate as many vegetables as possible with different colours, because they all have different benefits for the children. And teaching them that as well: like you said earlier, it’s not just about “eat your broccoli because it’s good for you,” which I think was very much the message that I was told when I was growing up. Actually nowadays, it’s eat your broccoli because it’s going to be a great source of iron which is going to keep you energized; eat your broccoli because it’s really good for your gut. Really introducing these concepts from a very young age.
We also think that it’s important to stay hydrated. Unfortunately, nowadays kids are much more likely to drink fizzy drinks and highly sweetened squashes. And actually, we’re just about trying to bring it back and encourage them to drink water or flavoured water if that’s possible for them. Trying to get five a day in so where possible using frozen fruits and vegetables is a great way to incorporate more fruits and veg, especially for people on a budget.
We do try and suggest to limit sweets, crisps and chocolates but this isn’t to say to cut them out completely. For kids, you shouldn’t necessarily highlight the fact that that’s a treat because I think once you’re starting to do that, it becomes something that you shouldn’t really have but you have it every now and again and actually, that’s not very good. And then all of a sudden when they get older, they might be more likely to go off the rails and eat way more of these foods.
Also just incorporating things like beans and pulses from a young age. Nowadays, people tend to think of those food as more adult foods but actually, if you bring them into a child’s diet from a young age, they’re going to be much more likely to consume them later on in life, and much more less likely to be fearful of these foods. Kids can often get scared of foods, and I think it’s when they’re not exposed to them or when they have sort of negative connotations attached to them. So a healthy, balanced diet is going to look different to everyone but those are the fundamentals that we try and encourage children to base their diets off.
Darren: Yeah, I think that’s really… It kind of sounds simple, but as I was just talking on another podcast, as humans, we tend to overcomplicate things. All of the healthy balanced diet that we just talked about, is there in the supermarket but we tend to kind of glaze over it. And as consumers, we tend to gravitate towards the fancy nice packaging, the processed stuff that says “it’s healthy or it’s good for you,” and all the rest of it. Actually, if we just simplify it and get the raw ingredients, we can make ourselves a much more balanced diet without necessarily thinking about it. The point you made there around rainbow colours–that’s really basic and that’s really simple and if you just apply that to all of your meals, you’ll be getting a nice balanced diet. So, I think for me, it’s a case of kind of dialling it back and simplifying it.
Yasmin: Yeah, and that’s why education is so much at the heart of what we do at the Yoghurt & Juice Network. Because, yeah, we all know that we should have a healthy balanced diet but, like Jenna said, what is that and more importantly, how do we translate that into our lives?
Because, like you said, often sometimes the way that things are marketed, we think that it should come out of a packet, but actually it’s just the foods that are there naturally that have always been there for years and years in the supermarkets that are the ones that are going to maybe give us more than what a lot of the new healthy marketed foods can have. I mean, they all have their place but I think it’s just like you said, bringing it back to basics but showing people how they can do that in their lifestyles.
Jenna: And just to add on from that, like you say, it is about making it fun. And if we go back to the idea of eating a rainbow, even encouraging kids to tick off the colours that they’re eating on a chart. So for example, if they’ve eaten broccoli, red cabbage, carrots and an aubergine for example, they can tick all those different colours off on their charts. And actually it makes it much more fun, much more interactive. And they can start to build up, over the course of a few weeks, a wide range of variety in their diet and they can see how exciting this is, how beneficial it is and you know what kids are like. They love a challenge, they love to get involved and they love to try and beat what they did last week. So just bringing that fun and engaging element into it as well is really, really important.
Darren: Yeah, definitely. I think the whole kind of “making it a game” is really, really key because, like you say, kids… Particularly, I found, from the ages of like six to nine, that they’re so really inquisitive and they love to be challenged and they love getting a result at the end of it. And making it a game, yeah, is a really cool way of achieving that.
The other thing as well is that not all kids are going to like all types of different rainbow type food, but from my perspective, if they just try it once, at least they’re then aware of that food and what it tastes like. And unconsciously that will kind of sink in and later on, as they grow older, then they might go back towards some of these foods.
Yasmin: Yeah, definitely. And I think the research says that actually, it takes between 15 to 20 exposures to a certain food before a child can make up their mind whether they like it or they don’t like it so much. It’s all about exposure to the different foods and then that repeated exposure. And I know that can, sometimes with someone who’s maybe got a child that’s a fussy eater, that can sometimes be really hard and it can be really frustrating. And yeah, hard work, but it’s just about persevering and especially with the exposure to the new foods; just being consistent with it.
Jenna: You might catch them on a bad day the first time that they try a new food and then the next time you might catch them on a good day. So it’s just about having that hope and also leading by example. If they see you eating these foods, they’re much more likely to want to engage because kids want to be like adults, don’t they? They want to feel grown up and so sometimes if you eat these foods, that can also really have a big effect on helping encourage them to eat them, too.
Darren: Yeah, yeah. It’s funny and I’ve got an example of that. funnily enough. I used to eat quite a lot of rice cakes and almond nut butter and if you used to give our child–he was seven at the time, Finley was–rice cake and nut butter on it, he’d probably turn his nose up at it. But he saw me meeting it consistently and one day he just turned around and said, “Dad, can I try that?” I said yeah, sure. And he now has it in his box for his lunch.
Yasmin: That’s just a prime example exactly of what we were just saying, so that’s true.
Darren: Yes, that’s really cool. So obviously, with parents as well… The other point I wanted to get your opinion on is that when you have a child and you are a parent and then as parents, you assume that you know everything, but parents don’t know everything. And I think to come back to your earlier point around education, it’s so, so key because parents are very busy, they’re very stressed out. They’ve got to juggle house, career, children, and all the rest of it, and they don’t necessarily know what to eat or what a good diet is and they don’t necessarily have the time to work all of that out. So what are some of the ways that you guys have helped and worked with parents to help them simplify it, really?
Jenna: There’s a few ways. One of the things that we do when we go into schools is we tend to do a summary document and we get the teachers to send that out to the parents, so they know exactly what their kids have learned in that classroom that day. They’ve also got the recipe that we’ve made, so they can really start to encourage the kids to take what they’ve learned in the classroom, home with them. That’s the first way.
The other thing that we are looking to do, we’re looking to take it online, and we’re looking to reach out to more parents and that’s going to be a much easier way to show parents: we don’t expect you to sift through the whole internet to find out what’s right and what’s wrong. We’re here for you, we’re going to tell you what’s ideal and give you some ideas. We’re not going to tell you exactly what you have to do but we’re going to give you some ideas of how you can implement healthy eating into your diet and also your child’s diet.
We also have a Health Hub on our website where we talk about different topics and provide some ideas and some practical take home tips for how they can get the kids involved, depending on the topic. But one thing really is that the parents should never feel guilty for not knowing. It’s not your fault if you don’t know. And I think often, you’ll find there is so much pressure on parents to try and be the best that they possibly can and juggle everything that’s going on. If they can just implement one or two things to try and improve their health and their child’s health–a week, a month, whatever it is–that’s better than not doing anything, so they shouldn’t feel like they have to try and tackle everything at once because it’s just impossible.
Darren: Yeah, I agree. The key thing that you said there is about doing a little bit but being consistent with it. So maybe just changing one meal a week or just introducing one new vegetable a week. I think if you look at it like that, it’s completely doable and despite how busy you are, you can still integrate some of that into your daily routines.
Yasmin: And I think, sorry, just to add on to that: break it down. Because for some people they can feel so overwhelmed that this is a massive task that they’ve got to take on, but actually, if you do break it down and make it into more smaller changes, they’re actually often more sustainable changes. And also just to add on to what we can do with parents, we offer parent workshops also that we can hold after school. Sometimes we’ve done it just for the parents, sometimes we’ve done it for parents and children.
This is just another way that we can ensure that some of these messages are also trickled through to the child’s home life as well. Like you said, some parents, they’re so busy that it’s just another thing on the list that they need to do. Again, we’re there to support them from when they come to pick up their children from school that they have the option to come into this session where we will educate them as well. That’s another way that we get the parents on board.
Darren: I think that’s hugely valuable. Hugely valuable just having someone there with all the knowledge that they can share with you that you can take away and action it. Yeah, I think that’s massively valuable.
So if we’re talking about the diets and the start of the day, beginning of the day is very key for nutrition and getting your right nutrition in to set you up for the day. The default response for breakfast and stuff like that in the morning is cereals, which I’ve got massive aversion to because of sugar content and then you’ve got toast and all the rest of it. In your opinion, what is some of the things that you can use to start the kid’s day with from a healthy breakfast perspective?
Yasmin: Yeah, so this is an excellent, excellent topic to talk about because when children are going to school, they’re going to be there for quite a majority of their day, they’re going to be learning, they need to use their brains. And some older children will have exams and breakfast is really, really important for them. I think just carrying on from what you said about cereals: cereal often is, if you think about a child’s breakfast, we’ll often automatically think about a bowl of cereal.
But I think part of this is down to the way that children’s cereals are marketed. I’m not saying that all cereal is unhealthy but it tends to be the cereals that are more processed, higher in sugar, that have these characters. Children, they’re going to be attracted to a character or an animation and it just seems quite backwards that actually the cereals that have the most marketing and money and funding behind them are actually the ones that aren’t that good for their health.
So, yeah, that’s kind of one of the ways. And also the ways in supermarkets where the cereals are placed, it’s all done very cleverly and it will be at the children’s eye level of those cereals that they want you to try and buy. It’s, again, just kind of being aware of this and maybe as a parent, being aware–and the children as well–that it’s not your fault if you’re necessarily drawn to these things, because that’s the way that the marketing and the supermarket placement, that’s what they want you to do. It’s interesting.
And then maybe we’ll come on to something at the end. This Bite Back Campaign. This is something that actually is an initiative that Jamie Oliver is involved with. We’ll mention it at the end, but that’s also around food marketing and how we’re trying to take a bit of control back from that.
Just going back to the breakfast. So healthier suggestions. Porridge or overnight oats: anything that uses oats is a really good idea for children’s breakfast. The good thing about oats is that they’re really versatile. For example, maybe in the winter months, the children might want to sit down with a breakfast maybe a bit more warming. For those months, then a porridge would be a good option.
But it’s also about combining food groups. This is for both adults and children, that when we combine the different food groups… For example, we’ve got the oats which is our source of carbohydrate, it’s also important to get a source of protein and some healthy fats into that meal because this will sustain the child’s energy. And for the parent while they’re at work, it will ensure that they have a more kind of slow release energy that is sustained throughout that morning so that they can concentrate, so that they can learn and be in the best state of mind that they can be in.
An example might be with your porridge or your overnight oats, to stir in some nuts or some nut butter which is really important. And also, it’s good for children to be exposed to nuts unless they have a diagnosed allergy because research has actually shown that the longer they go without nuts, they may be actually at a higher risk of developing an allergy to them. And also nuts, I know we can’t, in most schools, have them in school but that’s why to get them in at breakfast is a really good idea because a lot of our schools are nut free because of allergies but they are a really good source of these proteins and fats that we’re talking about.
Jenna: Another idea, on top of the oat based breakfast, things like banana pancakes where you combine a banana with two eggs and then cook them. You mash it up, the banana, and then you mix the eggs and mix it all together. You can put some cinnamon in there as well and then you cook them like a pancake. That is a really great way for the children to eat something that’s actually really healthy but makes them feel like they’re having a bit of pancakes for breakfast.
Something like egg muffins. So for example, you whisk up a load of eggs, you chop up some onions, some peppers and spinach, you can mix up the vegetables. Throw in some cheese and then whisk it all up with some salt and pepper and pour them into muffin moulds and then cook them in the oven for about eight to 10 minutes at 180 degrees. That’s a really good, quick, easy breakfast that, if you make a batch at the beginning of the week, you can have throughout the week. It doesn’t matter if the kids are running super late because they didn’t get out of bed; you’ve got that and they can just take it with them out the door and eat it on their way to school.
Weetabix is actually another really good option, it’s really high in fibre, so really good to support their gut health and B vitamins as well to help sustain energy. If you can, mix some seeds in with that as well, just for some healthy fats and omega three. That would be a good option. But again, it’s about getting creative.
Parents might tend to think cereal because that’s all they might have ever known or that’s what’s easy and that’s what’s quick. But once you start experimenting with different foods… We suggest, why not experiment with these in the holidays, when you might have a bit more time? It’s probably not the best idea to start experimenting with these on a busy school day where you don’t have any time. So make it enjoyable, make it fun, get the kids involved, get their input as well.
Darren: Yeah, definitely. I think the two things that you mentioned there is being creative… And it’s a challenge. I know as a dad, trying to find different alternatives, I’m constantly scouring the internet for stuff that I can give the kids that’s different, that’s not the standard ingrained thing that we were brought up with, which was cereal.
The other thing that you’re making a very good point there is experimenting on the weekend. Don’t face overwhelm in the week that you must all of a sudden break out all your muffin trays and all the rest of it and then do it when you’ve got to be out the door in five minutes. Do it at the weekend. And batch cooking is a great way of doing that. Batch cook it all at the weekend when you’ve got time, you can get the kids involved, it can be fun. And then in the week, you’re just grabbing it out of the fridge or wherever and you’re getting that nutrition. So I think that’s really valuable.
Jenna: Yeah, and definitely if you do get the kids involved, they’re much more likely to want to eat it because it’s something that they will have made, that they’ve created. Therefore, that’s another way to help them ensure that they do actually end up eating at the end of it.
Darren: Yeah, I agree. And I think the other thing about getting the kids involved is that they then get to understand the process and they start to understand the little ingredients you put in and what they do and how that can impact your health, your nutrition, and all the rest of it, and where it gets used in the body. I think that’s great. Getting them involved comes back to that whole kind of game type scenario that we talked about earlier.
One of the areas that I do struggle with as a dad, though, is the kids’ packed lunches. Now, I’m a little bit averse to letting them have school meals because not all of the schools have yet adopted what I think is a healthy meal strategy. Have you got any principles around packed lunches? I know we were talking about macronutrients earlier, but have you got any system around that or recommendations around packed lunches?
Jenna: Yeah, we do have a few. Just to go back to your comment about some of the school meals. You’re absolutely right. Some of the schools that we go into we do see what they have for lunch and we definitely think that there could be some improvements made on that. But just to caveat this, if a parent does give their child school meals, then they shouldn’t feel bad about that either. They’re doing what they can.
In answer to your question, to make life easier and if they’re making sandwiches, we’d say just switch the bread to wholemeal bread. It’s a super simple easy switch that just makes it a little bit healthier. Make wraps into pinwheels, so for example, if you make a wrap like a normal wrap and then you chop it up into tiny rounds, you’re making it so they’re bite sized. It’s a bit more enjoyable for the children to eat, a bit more exciting, call them pinwheel wraps and again, that makes it just that touch more exciting.
Try and get a lunch box with lots of little tiny compartments because I know personally when I was a child, I loved anything that was in compartments and I had to open little boxes to get into, you know, all those things, makes it that little bit more engaging. Try and ensure that your lunches are bit more tapas style.
Get creative, so if you are giving them vegetable sticks for example, why not get like a fancy little peeler that makes them into little shapes. They’re very inexpensive but they make vegetables a little bit more exciting. Go for fruit rather than chocolate, super simple but actually if you just start showing your child that fruit is what you have in your packed lunch, they don’t start to question it.
Swap some of the crisps for vegetable crisps so there are some really good brands out there, things like Emily Crisps which I don’t know if you’ve come across. They do really good vegetable crisps. Your child still feels like they’re eating a bag of crisps but they’re a little bit healthier and they’re not more expensive than regular crisps either, which is really great.
It doesn’t always have to be a sandwich so try and have a think about some pasta. Nowadays you can buy red lentil pasta, green pea pasta and some people will say, oh, my kid won’t eat that. Absolutely fine if they won’t eat that, what we do suggest is try and mix a little bit of that into their regular pasta to introduce it to them. And in the sauce, adding a load of vegetables: you don’t necessarily have to hide it in the sauce but you can add in chunks of vegetables within the sauce.
Some rice salads as well. So if you have a base of rice or you mix white rice with brown rice, that would be a good option and then add some vegetables, some sweet corn, some tuna into that; that’s an option as well. Just really get creative and provide them with a wide range of different foods. Try not to give them the same thing every day.
Yasmin: And also just to add to that. If you are going to experiment with any new recipes or a recipe for like an oat bar or something, if you can maybe on the weekend, make one of those recipes or make part of that with your child that they can then put in their lunch box. That’s kind of another way that they’ll be proud to show all their friends that they’ve made this recipe at home and they’re also much more likely to actually eat what’s in their lunch box.
Because I think we’ve noticed that a lot of children–and their parents probably notice this as well, that they give their child this meal, and then they come home with half of it. I think in terms of actually getting children to eat their lunch, if they’ve been involved with that cooking process, then they’re a lot more willing and kind of open to eating it as well.
Darren: Yeah, I agree definitely around them being involved in it. And funny enough, a few weekends ago, we actually made some what I call healthy cookies and my youngest now wants to make them for his teachers at school. And now he wants to get involved in making it so yeah, I think getting them involved gets him bought into it, doesn’t it? And this comes back to the kids wanting to know why. They don’t want to just be told. They’re not stupid; they’re very intelligent. And if you can break it down and give them the reasons why, they’re much more inclined to buy into it.
Jenna: You’re almost like selling it to them in a way, so think about it: if you go into a shop and a shopkeeper really engages you with the product and really gets you on board and encourages you and lets you try it out, for example, before you have to purchase it. You’re much more likely to purchase it than if you just go into a shop and someone says to you, here buy this because it will enhance your life. So I think that’s a really good way of thinking about it. You’re trying to sell a healthy lifestyle to your children by getting them involved and by giving them the best experience and a wide variety of ideas.
Darren: Yeah, definitely. The other point I just want to pull out as well and that is all of the stuff that you’ve mentioned around the packed lunches: when you look at it, it is all very basic, isn’t it? But it’s just adding that creative element to it and making it a little bit more fun. So for example, like the wraps, chopping them up and putting cocktail sticks through them, it does make it cool. The kids are more inclined to eat it, aren’t they?
Jenna: Yeah, they really are. And that’s something that at the Yoghurt & Juice Network we’re really passionate about. We don’t think that it all has to be fancy and spend loads of time and loads of money in order to be healthy. It really is about the simple things and, like you say, just being creative. Once you’ve done it once, you can do it again, rinse and repeat, but obviously not every day.
Darren: Yeah, absolutely. So when we come on to evening meals and things like that, that can be another challenge as well from the perspective of you’ve just come in from work, you’re trying to find something in the cupboard or in the fridge to make that’s healthy, and often, because of time constraints, you obviously grab stuff that’s processed or grab something off the supermarket that can be cooked in 20 minutes. What suggestions have you got around evening meals for the family and obviously making sure you’re getting all your nutrients in?
Yasmin: This is also a really good question and I think that also parents, they try and put a lot of pressure on themselves that oh, my child has to have this really good meal. And often, yeah, we can make really good meals but they are so much easier and just off the back of everything that we spoke about already. That we can make really healthy and wholesome meals out of leftover vegetables that you might have in your fridge and a few things that you keep in your pantry or your cupboard.
Just a few ideas. Maybe like a fish pie that you could make, so using whatever fish that you like. You can get frozen fish pie mixes with a mix of a few different fish and you can make that with, instead of using a white potato mash, you can mix it up and add a bit more colour into it. For example, mashing a bit of sweet potato or mixing some sweet potato in with the white potato. Or also vegetables like butternut squash or some swede, just mixing it up a bit and getting a bit more fibre, a bit more nutrients in that way.
Like we said before so there’s pastas that are now available from most supermarkets, that are green pea pasta and red lentil pasta. Firstly, they are green and they are red, which will engage children I think a lot more. There’s pasta that you can get in different shapes but now we can get pasta in different colours. They might also be quite engaged with that and looking at if the colour changes while it’s cooking. But that’s a really quick meal because I think they take about eight minutes to boil and then while that’s boiling, like I said, whatever vegetables that you have in your fridge, you can just chop them up, add them to a saucepan, just cook them a little bit, add the pasta in.
And if you do have any–just looking for a source of proteins–if you’ve got, chickpeas in the cupboard or any beans in the cupboard, you can add them to it as well. Or if you’re a family that batch cooks, say, chicken or some fish on the weekend, you can just pull a bit of that out and add it to that and that becomes a really balanced and wholesome meal that probably took about 10 or 15 minutes to make. So that’s a really good one.
Also, what we might see on a lot of kids menus, which is one thing that’s a bugbear of ours: why should kids have a separate menu? If you go into a restaurant that’s just chips and hotdogs and chicken nuggets, it’s kind of like the opposite to what it should be. But actually, if we’re thinking about how we can maybe make these things healthier, a way of doing that would be to get some chicken breast or some turkey or you can even do it with white fish. Instead of using a breadcrumb, you could ground up some oats or use oat flakes and coat them in that.
Or if children don’t have nut allergies, you can also use ground almond which is really good. I actually do that quite a lot and you can put some pepper and some paprika and whatever spices you want in there just to kind of give it a bit of flavour and use that to coat the chicken or the turkey or whatever you’re using. And that, you can get the kids involved in, so if they want to get really involved, they can bread the chicken for you. That’s also quite a good one.
Also another one–pizzas, again, it’s often something that is seen as maybe more unhealthy but actually you can make a really kind of healthy balanced meal if for example you use a whole meal pitta bread or a wholemeal wrap. Just make that into a pizza by putting some tomato puree or passata on, add some cheese in there to get the protein. You could add any meats or fish, anything that you want to add on there, and then put some veg and then just put that under the grill for five to 10 minutes. So that’s a really good idea as well.
Darren: I think the wholemeal pitta bread, the pizza, that that something that I’ve not considered before. That’s a really clever way of A- getting them involved, B- obviously making it quite quick and getting some nice balanced nutrition in there as well.
Yasmin: Yeah, and you can also decorate them: make the vegetables into like little faces, you’re making pitta people. You can get creative with it and it’s just really good because it’s really easy, and it’s a balanced meal as well.
Jenna: Just to add on to that. Kids are almost often more creative than adults, so get them in to do the creative bits for you. Challenge them: ask them how can we change it this week? What meals can we make this week that’s more exciting? Actually, sometimes their ideas might be better than our own, so really challenging them encourages them to do the creative work for us.
Darren: Yeah, definitely. You’re absolutely right; they are way more creative than we’ll give them credit for and by getting involved, they definitely will come up with other cool ways and ideas of what to put on the food and stuff like that.
In terms of hydration, I know we’ve touched on it previously around how important hydration is. I’m a big advocate of filtered water. I think that another area which is maybe a little bit off topic, and that is water in schools is not necessarily the best kind of quality of water. But if we’re dehydrated by about 10 to 20%, we lose about 50% of our concentration. So where do you stand on the whole hydration front and what ways and methods have you got in order to make sure that we’re hydrated throughout the day?
Jenna: A few things that we can do. Firstly, buy your child a nice water bottle so it’s something that encourages them to drink. Try and avoid starting them off with squash. So if you’ve already done that, that’s absolutely fine. We can encourage a switch but it’s much easier if you start off by giving them water. And if the kid says oh, I don’t like water, I’m not going to drink anything, then infuse that water with fruit or herbs or mint and get them each week to pick what they want to infuse their water with this week. Again, you’re getting them involved, they’re making the decision.
The other thing that you could do is add a drop of apple juice or orange juice into a bottle of water rather than squash. You’re giving it some flavour, but you’re not necessarily giving them a whole load of squash which is artificially sweetened. Milk is another really good way to help with hydration but the thing that we would say with this is try and avoid those really high sugar flavoured milks. If you do want to use milk, then either use just regular milk or get a litre of milk and blend it up with a date and some vanilla. So you have got some sweetness in there but it’s really not too much. It’s not overpowering, but it gives it a little bit of a different flavour. So there are a few things that we would say around getting kids hydrated.
And like you say about the filtered water, not everyone can invest in a filtered water system in their home. The BRITA filter jugs are really good, so we definitely recommend that as well. And also using water charts as well, getting them involved. If they can tick off how many glasses of water or how many times they filled up their bottle that day, that’s another good way to make it into a game.
But just to stay on this topic, I think sometimes people take it to the extreme and they think that, oh, the more the better. Actually, there is a limit really of how much water you should be consuming. We’d say don’t go over that, like 1.5 to two litres of water a day for adults and really, for kids, around like 1.5 litres. Obviously, exercise is going to come into play, so you might need a little bit more but it’s not about trying to drink four or five litres a day, which unfortunately, we do actually hear on a regular basis of people trying to do.
Darren: I totally agree. You can definitely over hydrate and the ramifications of that actually is then that the sugars and salts that are in your body then obviously pass through and you don’t get the benefits of that. So I think that’s a really key point to make. I actually hadn’t considered putting a date or vanilla into milk and blending that up, but that’s a really good idea which we can try.
I think the infused water side of things is a really clever way and a really healthy way of getting some flavour into water. Because I don’t know about you guys, but I know as a kid, when I used to say to my parents that I’m thirsty and they said, just drink water. And actually, sometimes after a while, water does get a little bit boring. So having some infused water, it really helps.
Yasmin: And also, even for adults, the vessel that you’re drinking from. If you switch that up every now and then. I actually sometimes find it easier to drink from a bottle which is transparent that I can see how much I’m drinking rather than like a flask bottle which I do use sometimes. But actually just switching it up, because that can have a massive impact on the amount that we drink as well. Just taking that into consideration would be a good idea.
Darren: Definitely. To sum up, then, what are the five key actions that the listeners could take away from today to help with the kids’ fitness… not necessarily fitness but nutrition?
Yasmin: Okay, so we’ve got kind of a few things. First one, we’ve already spoken about this quite a lot today, but get the children involved as much as possible. Even if it’s just a small job to maybe, say, if you’re peeling carrots, you’re peeling potatoes, then, even for them to just clear up or take away the bits that you’ve peeled. Doesn’t always have to be with the cooking, but just give them any jobs to get them involved is a really good idea.
If you can set good examples as much as possible, then that’s really helpful. The third one would be to try and introduce something new every week. This could be a fruit, it could be a vegetable, it could be a new type of protein source, it could be anything. But this helps also create dietary diversity, which is really, really important for our whole health in terms of getting in different types of nutrients, but also for our gut health as well. So for adults and children, dietary diversity is really key. Trying to introduce something new every week.
And then the last two kind of focus more on movement, so just getting children to move in different ways. It doesn’t always have to be, oh, let’s go and run around outside. It might be, let’s go into the forest and take a chart with you that you can either probably get online or one that you make, like, let’s see if we can find this type of leaves. Let’s see if we can find this. They’ll be walking along and they’ll be learning as well, so trying to find new ways of getting children active.
Finally, again, kind of on the same line just to try and take family outdoors. There have been quite a lot of research, more so with adults, but showing that spending time outside and in forests can actually help reduce some of our stress hormones in our body. If parents are very stressed, then spending time outdoors can help with that and also that will increase the child’s movement at the same time. So, yeah, spending more time outdoors where possible.
Darren: I think all of the stuff that you’ve mentioned, is very, very basic. And like I said previously, as adults, we like to overcomplicate things. But being aware of all of those five points, really, and just incorporating them, it’s not a massive thing. It’s just having that awareness and that consciousness and just actively putting them into your lives, your week, your weekend or whatever. And it can have a really positive effect.
Before we wrap up, then, what didn’t I ask you that you feel I should have asked you, which would benefit the listeners?
Jenna: To be honest, I think we’ve covered quite a lot of ground here. Just one of the things we think that would be really beneficial for some of the parents to do is to go on to YouTube and look at Jamie Oliver’s new campaign, which is Bite Back 2030. It just shows the power of marketing and how that can really affect children and teenagers’ food choices as well. It’s such a powerful video, so we’d really encourage people to go and have a look at that.
But other than that, I think just another key thing for your listeners to remember is, no one’s perfect. No one’s put it down 100% so they can just do what they can do and that’s the most important thing. As long as they’re making one positive change, if we can encourage people to make one positive change, we’ve done our job. It’s not about being perfect.
Perfection doesn’t exist. Just take the pressure off, have fun with it, and enjoy healthy eating. Enjoy spending time with the children and less time of them sitting on their phones and in front of screens and stuff. Because nowadays, there’s so much of that, so really getting creative and cooking in the kitchen is a way as well to help reduce that and minimize that. Just take the time off, have fun and go for it. And you can’t really go wrong, to be honest. That’s the other thing.
Darren: I agree. I agree with all of that, I think keep it simple and just start doing stuff and don’t make it this big deal. Yeah, I think it’s fantastic. Well, thank you very much for your time today, ladies. Where and how can people reach out to connect with you? What kind of websites, courses and platforms are you on?
Jenna: Our website is TheYoghurtAndJuiceNetwork.com, where we’ve got our Health Hub recipes, a little bit more information on our services, so if anyone thinks that they’d like has to come into their child’s school then they can definitely connect with us through that. We are on Instagram @YoghurtandJuice_network.
Our email is [email protected] as well. If anyone has got any questions or they want to connect or get involved, then definitely please do get in touch.
Darren: Perfect. Well, once again, thanks very much for your time today, ladies, and I look forward to seeing your progress and seeing you pop up in some more schools and hopefully speaking to you again in the future.
Jenna & Yasmin: Absolutely. Thanks, Darren.
Darren: Thanks for listening to the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please hit subscribe and I would really appreciate it if you could leave a review on iTunes. All the links mentioned in the episode will be in the show notes, and a full transcription is over at FitterHealthierDad.com