Family Cooking During Lockdown

Father and Daughter cooking

Now that we've settled into what’s being deemed the ‘new normal’, lots of families will have noticed a big shift in their usual routine! Rather than packing a lunchbox the night before, parents are now having to prepare all their kids’ meals in ‘real time’ every day, often while juggling the demands of working from home. It’s certainly a challenge, especially if mums and dads aren’t so confident in their own cooking skills. Lisa Halpenny is one of the founders of KidsCook, a cookery school for children on the Dublin / Meath border. During lockdown, they’ve taken their business online, sharing simple recipes on their Facebook and Instagram channels.

“This current situation is definitely bringing people back together at the dinner table”, Lisa begins. "Families have suddenly gone from having no meals together to having three!” For many people though, there’s an in-built fear around preparing food. Lisa reckons cooking became something of a lost art in recent years, as our lives got busier. She notices that lots of kids tend to cook and bake with their grandparents, but less so with Mum and Dad. “There’s definitely a generation gap.” As a result, during lockdown many parents are spending more money than they should on food.  Juggling full time jobs and childcare may sometimes result in not having the time to cook a dinner from scratch and buying expensive pre-made meals.

Young girl looking at the oven

KidsCook want to bring those cooking skills back to the fore, and lockdown is the perfect opportunity for you to get started. For Lisa and her team, it's all about imparting food knowledge in a practical way, something parents can emulate in the kitchen. “We’re very conscious of not making cooking seem like a boring class”, she explains. When they make something simple like homemade oven chips for example, a conversation naturally starts comparing them to chipper chips, and children come to understand that baking is healthier than deep frying. “We play games and activities around food too”, Lisa adds. “That can be as simple as naming fruits, if your kids are very young, or asking questions like, ‘what comes from a cow?’ to learn about dairy. 

Speaking of which, it can be equally challenging to figure out how much of each food group children require. Nutritionist Sarah Keogh acknowledges that it’s not easy to get kids to eat a balanced diet. “The good news”, she says “is that most kids do okay when it comes to nutrition.  So rather than trying to get to perfection, focus on the three key nutrients that many kids in Ireland are missing; iron, calcium and vitamin D. 

Family preparing dinner in kitchen

Iron

“20% of children in Ireland don’t eat enough iron”, says Sarah, “leaving them feeling tired, lacking in energy and struggling to concentrate on schoolwork.” Good iron sources include red meat, chicken, turkey, eggs, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, spinach and kale.

Calcium

“Calcium is essential for bones to grow and develop”, says Sarah. “Children need three servings of calcium-rich foods every day”. Some serving examples are: 200ml of cow’s milk / calcium-fortified plant milk alternative, a pot of yoghurt (about 125g) / calcium-fortified plant-based yoghurt, or 30g of hard cheese like cheddar - all perfect for snacks between meals. 

Vitamin D

“Although children should be making vitamin D from sunshine”, says Sarah, “the reality is that Ireland doesn’t get enough to be useful, so it has to come from food.” Sources include fish like salmon, tuna and mackeral, as well as eggs. However, even eating these foods regularly won’t fully make up for all of the vitamin D children need. “You might need to choose foods that are fortified with vitamin D, or using a supplement”, says Sarah. “Some brands of milk have vitamin D added and this can be a great way to get it into children.”

Feeling inspired? You’ll find a whole host of simple, tasty and nutritious recipes on the KidsCook Instagram page. We love the look of this curry sauce, easy egg fried rice (great for getting veg into picky eaters!) and wholemeal scones.

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