Choklits Child Care in Ringwood, Victoria, is located right next door to the Cadbury chocolate property. But for in-house chef Helen Rooney, who prepares all of the meals and snacks each day, her cooking is decidedly less sugary.
In fact, you won’t find any white sugar in the recipes that Helen prepares, ensuring that the children receive nutritious food each day that will benefit them for life.
No sugar, no packets
Toddle spoke with Helen to find out more about this new policy. ‘One of the questions I get asked most consistently is “How do I ensure a meal is healthy?”, she says.
‘Basically, if you avoid sugar and anything from a packet you can be pretty sure you’ve got a healthy meal, so that’s the way we think about it here,’ says Helen.
As part of their commitment to healthy eating, Choklits is currently working towards a ‘no sugar, no packet’ policy.
‘It’s a lot of work to make these changes as we are just like many of our parents, super busy every single day,’ explains Helen.
‘We know sugar is used excessively because it is a cheap filler ingredient and packaged food is popular because it’s a convenient option and saves time, but we believe the health of our children is more than convenience and one of the most important investments we can make.’
Choklits still offers children meals and snacks that they love, such as homemade cakes, slices and pies. However, they opt to use natural sweeteners such as honey or fruit instead of white sugar. They make sauces from scratch rather than using a jar or packet of sauce.
You can view a sample of the Choklits menu here.
Why Helen loves cooking for the children
Helen’s philosophy is to keep it simple. ‘In my experience, young children aren’t too interested in those fancy dishes and cooking techniques you see on TV,’ says Helen.
‘They just want yummy food that provides plenty of energy to run, to learn, to play and to share with their friends. I take care of the nutrition so they can focus on their education.’
The children are Helen’s biggest source of inspiration, and they’ll often pop into the kitchen to give her feedback.
‘When the kids come down and tell me that they loved lunch, it makes me so happy that I get to do this job,’ says Helen.
Plant to plate
To help involve the children in the development of healthy meals, the centre began to focus on upgrading their veggie patches as part of a sustainability program called “Plant to Plate”.
Choklits has two huge veggie patches growing strawberries, passionfruit, garlic, broccoli, tomatoes, lettuce, mint, basil and more. The children learn about where food comes from, and Helen and the team have access to beautiful fresh produce.
‘My favourite cooking ingredients are fresh herbs so you can imagine how exciting it is to have a fresh supply on hand right here in our own grounds,’ says Helen.
‘Even better is that the children actually do the planting. Part of the curriculum here is caring for our crops from the seeding stage right up until when they are picked and served as part of our menu.
We have found that when children plant and care for their own food, they quickly develop a deep understanding of food cycles, appreciate food more and are more willing to try new things. When their minds are open, they are also much more likely to engage in new experiences with food.’
A cookbook with the children’s favourite recipes
Inspired by the feedback she received from children and their families, Helen put together a free Choklits Recipe Book. You can get a copy here. In it, she shares nine of the children’s favourite recipes that she makes regularly.
Some of these include Tuna and Rice, Ham, Cheese and Sundried Tomato Muffins, Shepherd’s Pie and Two Ingredient Banana Pancakes.
Helen shares a favourite recipe
We’ve got one of the most popular recipes from the book to share with you today. Why not make them with your children for a tasty morning tea?
‘Most people love muffins (I know I do!) but the problem is many muffins contain very high quantities of sugar which can be unhealthy,’ says Helen. ’These ones are tasty, without the bad stuff.’
Blueberry Muffins (makes 12)
- ¾ cup of milk
- 2 ¼ cups self-raising flour, sifted
- 1 cup blueberries (ideally fresh)
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup honey
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and lightly grease a 12 holed non-stick muffin pan.
2. Sift flour into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Combine egg, honey and milk in a jug, and pour into the bowl.
3. Using a large metal spoon, stir until just combined. Add blueberries and stir through.
4. Spoon evenly into muffin pan.
5. Bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer can be inserted into the centre of the muffin and comes out clean.
You can find out more about Choklits Child Care in Ringwood, Victoria by viewing their listing here.
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