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This week marks the 21st anniversary of National School Meals Week, the annual celebration of school lunches and everything that makes them great. It also serves as a reminder that the days of ‘turkey twizzlers’, grey mushy peas and equally grey custard are, thankfully, behind us.

One of the most interesting elements of National School Meals Week is the well-deserved recognition which school caterers receive.  Their talents and professionalism are showcased through placements in some of the best restaurants, companies and venues across the country. This year some of the top venues include Harrods, The Gherkin, Chilli Pickle Brighton and Peace and Loaf, Newcastle.

Still high on the agenda however, is making school lunches more nutritious, satisfying and most of all, exciting for children. As Jamie Oliver has proved to us, quality, well-thought-out school lunches help pupils to perform better in school, and parents feel more confident in signing their children up for school lunches when they know they’re being well-fed.

We all know that it can be difficult to encourage kids to consume yet more fruit and vegetables though, so allow us to share some clever and cunning ways to persuade your pupils to eat their greens – or reds, or oranges, or purples – that will have you feeling inspired even beyond National School Meals Week.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

Is there such a thing as a healthy pizza? There is when the crust is made from cauliflower, and when it’s smothered with a tasty tomato topping, fresh vegetables and a sprinkling of cheese, we doubt that the pupils will suspect a thing. The crust is made from little more than finely chopped cauliflower, herbs and eggs, so it’s free from flour and grains – perfect if any pupils have an allergy, plus as it’s low in carbohydrates it will help to stave off ‘carb crashes’ in the afternoon. Here’s a great recipe for cauliflower crust pizza that we’re confident your pupils will love. Here’s another tip: finely chopped cauliflower can also be used in place of rice when served with curry or chilli.

Courgette Spaghetti

It might be a little more difficult to trick the kids with this one, but nutrient-rich courgette spaghetti is a great alternative to carb-packed wheat pasta. When it’s mixed with pasta sauce, it’s difficult to taste the difference! All you have to do is thinly peel courgettes using a spiraliser, or a julienne attachment on a food processor, so that it resembles spaghetti, then fry or boil the courgette for just a couple of minutes until cooked. Then, simply add pasta sauce and serve as normal, with a slice or two of garlic bread on the side.

Beetroot Brownies

Now let’s talk about every child’s favourite part of school meals – the dessert. Chocolaty, squidgy brownies are usually full of fat and sugar, but substituting some of the sugar and butter for beetroot helps to make them healthier, yet just as tasty. Ask pupils to guess the secret ingredient when you make these beetroot brownies, and we bet they’ll be stumped!

Of course, we’re merely scratching the surface of healthy school meal ‘recipe swap’ ideas, but you don’t have to conceal courgettes in kids’ food to coerce them into making more nutritious food choices.

Removing as much processed food as possible from your recipes, offering easy-to-eat sliced fruit and vegetables as a dessert or side, and even removing desserts from the menu altogether on some days of the week all goes a long way towards improving school lunches. Why not consider organising a ‘tasting evening’ for parents following National School Meals Week too, so they can enjoy school meals for themselves and provide feedback and ideas that you may not have considered!


Lockhart Catering on 4 November 2014 12:25 AM

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