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Fresh is Best

Year: 2018

Fresh is Best

With so many products on our supermarket shelves being made to look healthy by clever marketing tricks and deceptive labelling, it’s time to take a step back, define “fresh” and take a look and what we are really eating.

Fresh foods are not frozen or preserved in any way. They are usually sourced locally and retain all of the nutritional value and flavour without any additions or manipulation.

It’s misleading when items such as fruit and vegetable juice or even the dehydrated fruit in dry cereals are marketed by some manufacturers as counting towards fruit and vegetable servings.

The definition of “fresh” is often misconstrued by simply serving an item at the expected temperature – hot or cold. 

Labels can be deceiving too, seemingly endless products labelled as “natural” and “organic” may not be as good for you as you think.

Additives such and poor quality ingredients undermine the overall nutritional value of foods. What is not highlighted by many food labels or manufacturers are all the hidden ingredients – from added sugar, sodium, and unpronounceable preservatives, to additives, flavouring, and colouring.  Commonly used, artificially enriched grains are not as healthy as those that remain intact during production. The addition of brown colouring to some breads may mislead consumers into thinking they are purchasing whole grains, when in fact the product is not.  Due to the need to extend shelf-life and reduce manufacturing costs, many lesser quality ingredients are often utilised – including those that are harmful to our health, like sodium solution fillers or saturated and hydrogenated fat sources.

When you walk through the aisle in the supermarket, most cereals have a fortified certification on them; fortified with six different vitamins and minerals. The question you should be asking is: What happened to the vitamins and minerals that were in there to begin with? They got processed out.

Focusing on fresh ingredients not only promotes improved health, but also boosts nutrients and flavour profiles.  Any type of processing such as canning, freezing or drying can deteriorate the quality of and amount of nutrients, fibre, flavour, and even natural colour.  A simple test is comparing fresh, frozen, and canned carrots.  The fresh carrots retain a bright orange colour, with a crispness superior to the canned or frozen variety.

Processing of any type also reduces the nutrient content, and may even strip away those vital antioxidants that support immune health and protect cells from damage. In addition, choosing fresh ingredients promotes synergy of nutrients that may not necessarily occur if the items were processed.  Even after processed grains are enriched, the final product is less nutritious than the original whole grain.  As a result, much of the fibre content is lost, meaning you need to consume much larger quantities than you would if is in its raw form.

Many consumers choose pre-made frozen entrees and sides simply for convenience, but typical sodium content for a frozen entrée ranges 700 to 1300 mg – 30-50% of the daily maximum recommendation of 2500 mg.  According to the CDC, a reduction of sodium intake from the current national average of 3400 mg to 2300 mg per day may reduce cases of high blood pressure by 11 million per year!It may be surprising but buying fresh, raw ingredients is less expensive than selecting processed items.The more steps required to process a food item, the higher the cost. 

6 Tips to Encourage Children to Eat Fruit and Vegetables

encourage children to eat fruit and vegetables

Is your child a fussy eater when it comes to eating fruit and vegetables?   Here are some tips to encourage children to eat fruit and vegetables, from the chef’s at Hearty Health:

​1. Try and try again

Children can be fussy with food, which can change from day to day. It is important to be patient and continue to offer a variety of fruit and vegetables every day, not just the type they like.

If you don’t succeed at first, try again. Some children need to be presented with a new food several times – even up to ten times or more – before they will try it. The goal is to make mealtime a positive experience and any new food consumed is a step forward.

2. Eating together

Parents and Early Childhood Educators have an important role to play in establishing a positive mealtime experience for children. Having meals together means that children are provided with an opportunity to learn.  Watching parents and role models enjoy a variety of nutritious foods, means children are more likely to join in.

3. Encourage children to eat fruit and vegetables

Encourage children to eat fruit and vegetables by providing non-food or social rewards, such as a star chart or reward scheme in your child care centre room.   Eating a variety of fruit and vegetables together with a child’s peers, creates positive eating habits for life.

4. Serving size matters

A child’s portion size may be small and varies with age, appetite and activity levels. Start by serving food in more manageable portions and gradually build from there.

5. Get children involved

Increase your child’s exposure and interest in fresh produce by going grocery shopping together and getting them involved in choosing which fruits and vegetables they would like to have. Many green grocers and supermarkets are now offering tours of their fresh produce departments.  This is a great excursion idea that many Child Care Centres are taking advantage of to encourage children to eat fruit and vegetables.

6. Make it fun and tasty

Children can have particular preferences for the taste, texture and presentation of their meals. Those who prefer crunchier textures may do better with raw rather than cooked vegetables.

To encourage children to eat fruit and vegetables, it may also be more appealing if different coloured fruits and vegetables are served together.

If your child is picky with vegetables, try starting with sweeter and more colourful vegetables like pumpkin, corn, cauliflower or carrots. Incorporate other types of vegetables when your child gets used to eating them.

New types of fruits and vegetables can also be served along with a food that you know they enjoy such as homemade sauces and dips to make them more palatable.

For more hints and tips from the chef’s in the Hearty Health kitchen, follow our Facebook page and check in to our Hearty Health Blog.

Top 3 Books to Encourage Healthy Eating Habits in Kids

Healthy eating habits

We love Book Week.   It is lots of fun and from a nutritional point of view, there is no better time to help encourage healthy eating habits in children than by reading a good book about it!

Tips when reading to children

When reading books to children remember these hot tips:

• Give everything a name – Build a child’s vocabulary by talking about interesting words and objects. For example, “Look at the apple! Apples grow in trees. How do you think apples grow?”

• Say how much you enjoy reading – Tell the children how much you enjoy reading with them. Talk about “story time” as your favourite part of your day.

• Read with excitement in your voice – read to children with humour and expression. Use different voices and make it fun : )

• Know when to stop – put the book away for a while if the children start to lose interest or are having trouble paying attention.

• Be interactive – Discuss what’s happening in the book, point out things on the page, and ask questions. Have some healthy food to give out and smell, eat and touch as you are reading the book.

• Read it again and again – the beauty of books is that they are never ending. There is always time to read the same book on another day

Top 3 books to read to encourage healthy eating habits in kids

Here are our top 3 recommendations for Book Week in 2018 which focus on health eating habits:

Healthy eating habitsWe Are What We Eat by Kristy Hammil. According to the description, “Your kids will start to recognize the difference between foods that are nourishing to their bodies and foods that aren’t.” Great for kids 2-10 years old.


Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food by Stan and Jan Berenstain.  Mama and Dr. Grizzly attempt to help their children understand the importance of nutritious foods and exercise.


Gregory the Terrible Eater by Mitchell Sharmat –  Gregory is a goat that only eats fruits, vegetables, bread and butter.  This disappoints his parents because they wish he would eat tires, shoelaces, tin cans, and cardboard.  The kids think it’s hilarious!


Hearty Health are passionate developing healthy eating habits in children and providing fresh seasonal ready-made meals for children.

Contact Hearty Health at here or ring us on 1300 728 762 to book a tasting of our delicious menu that your kids will love.

How to Improve Your Child’s Gut Health

Gut health

Gut health is an important factor which can determine how we feel, how strong our immune system is and our energy levels.  If our gut is upset and inflamed, that inflammation can spread to the rest of our body and make tension worse.

Therefore, we need to be eating a wholesome diet to give our gut health the best chance to make us feel great.  Avoiding sugar including any soft drinks/juices and processed foods is the best way to heal our gut.  Some people also have specific intolerances to gluten, dairy or fructose so it is important to get tested to ensure the best diet for you.

For kids, the gut’s main role is to regulate digestion (and keep things moving!), as well as to give them the immunity they need to fight off any bugs that they get exposed to.

An unhappy gut in a child can lead to stomach aches and issues with absorption of vitamins and minerals.   Other symptoms such as issues with sleeping, constipation, bloating or lethargy can often be caused by gut issues.

3 simple ways to improve your child’s gut health:

1. Reduce Processed Foods

Processed foods, and food containing excessive sugar can be causing your child’s gut health to be compromised.

Making your own healthy homemade snacks and treats can make a big difference.  You can also ensure that your child has an adequate intake of fibre, by adding things like pears and apples (with peel on), potato and sweet potato (skin on), legumes (like our Hearty Health Hommus) and berries.

And don’t forget to keep their water intake up as this helps flush their system.

2. Avoid overuse of antibiotics

When your child is ill it’s natural to visit the doctor and see if they might need medication.  But overuse of antibiotics can kill your child’s good gut flora.

Speak to your doctor about your child’s symptoms and ask if antibiotics are necessary.  There may be other options available if you ask.

3. Add some of these gut friendly foods to children’s meals:

  • natural or Greek yoghurt goes well with nearly everything and the probiotics in yoghurt make it the best option for increasing gut flora
  • pickles or sauerkraut on homemade burgers is delicious – introduce this slowly to your kids to help them develop their palate
  • homemade stock in your Bolognese and soups
  • salmon with green leafy vegetables
  • blueberries as a snack on their own or in a muffin
  • chia seeds and/or walnuts in a muffin or porridge is filling and ticks all the boxes for optimum health
  • beetroot dip is a popular snack that Hearty Health make for children in child care. Delicious with fresh celery and carrot sticks
  • sweet potato used as a mash with Shepherd’s Pie or wedges would be a bit hit with the kids
  • turmeric and ginger in a mild curry would warm up tummy’s as well as giving a big immune boost

Hearty Health specialise in creating fresh seasonal ready-made meals for children which are made by professional chefs.  For more information, contact Hearty Health here.

Encourage Healthy Sleep Habits in Toddlers

healthy sleep habits

Healthy sleep habits combined with eating fresh healthy meals, keep our bodies fit and strong.

New research released by VicHealth and the Sleep Health Foundation has found that technology before bed, caffeine and stress all contribute to later bed times, sleep problems and mental illness in teenagers and young people.

It is much easier to create healthy sleep habits at an early age.  Follow our tips below to establish positive patterns in your family that will set you up for the teenage years:

Establish a regular sleep pattern

Regular hours of sleep are important. It will help your child understand when it is time to sleep and your child will have better sleep and develop healthy sleep habits.

Bed time and the time your child wakes up, shouldn’t vary by more than an hour between school and non-school nights.

A consistent bedtime routine

It is good to have the same routine before bed each night especially for children who thrive on routine. This will help prepare for sleep. Aim for quiet activities such as reading a book or having a bath and encourage a positive calm pattern ready for sleep.

In the half hour before bed, there are some things you don’t want your child to do such as increased physical activity, playing outside, watching television, or playing computer games.

Make sure the bedroom is comfortable

Your child’s bedroom should be a quiet, comfortable and dark. Some children like a dim night light which makes them feel safe. Make sure your child sees his or her bedroom as a good place to be.

Bed is for sleeping, not entertainment

Television, computers, mobile phones and other things that distract your child can stimulate your child’s brain and are not good for their sleep.   Start a habit of keeping all electronic games out of the bedroom and create a charging station in a central part of the house where they are stored every evening.   This habit will prove invaluable as your child grows through the primary years and into a teenager.

A snack before bed may help develop healthy sleep habits

It’s difficult to sleep on an empty stomach. A light snack can help settle and soothe your child if not enough nutritious food has been eaten during the day. Keep in mind that ideally your child should not have a heavy meal within one to two hours of going to bed so keep the snack light.   Check out our Hearty Health blog here for nutritious recipes that may help.

Caffeine is a stimulant

Caffeine is found in many popular drinks. These include coffee, tea and soft drinks which can make it harder to get to sleep. Your child should have as little of these as possible, and especially not after lunchtime.

Watch out for daytime naps

It is normal for young children to nap during the day but as your child gets older, they will need less sleep. The number and length of naps depends on your child. If your child naps after 4pm (except for the very young) it can be harder to get to sleep at night.

Exercise and time outside

Daily exercise and time spent outside in the daylight is an important part of healthy living and promotes healthy sleep habits. However, it is best to steer clear of heavy exercise in the hour before sleep.

Work with your doctor

If your child is sick or isn’t comfortable, their sleep will suffer. Some children suffer from specific sleep problems such as frequent nightmares, snoring or sleep apnoea. It is important that these problems are dealt with. If you think ill health is involved, discuss this with your family doctor.

For more tips and hints on getting your children to sleep visit http://raisingchildren.net.au/

Hearty Health specialise in providing fresh healthy meals to children in child care every day.  Our philosophy is to create healthy eating habits in children as soon as possible to set them up to be healthy adults.   If your child attends child care, contact us here to find out if your centre is a Hearty Health centre.

How to celebrate the Winter Solstice with Your Kids

celebrate the Winter Solstice with your kids

The Winter Solstice highlights the birth of a new solar year and is also known as midwinter or Yule.   It is the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year.   Celebrate the Winter Solstice with your kids by learning about why it is so significant around the world and start new family traditions that become annual rituals…

Midwinter is a traditional time of feasting and celebration.   In the Southern Hemisphere the Winter Solstice will take place on 21 June.

This date in the calendar is recognised and celebrated because it marks the middle of Winter and the beginning of the journey towards longer lighter days and eventually Spring.

Yule corresponds with the Northern Hemisphere Christmas season and at this time, Yule logs are burned. The Yule log must traditionally be the root of a hardwood tree.

Winter Solstice in Australia

In Australia, Mallee roots, Tasmanian Oaks and all types of Eucalyptus are ideal for Yule logs. The Yule log is burned down until nothing but a small piece remains.  This is saved and kept to be used as a lighter for the following year’s Yule fire.

Winter Solstice traditions around the world

There are many traditions and activities around the world that you can use to celebrate the Winter Solstice with your kids.  Some focus around monuments but others are transferable to the Australian way of life and open up our imagination for fun and festivities.

  • Ireland – people stand inside the Newgrange monument in Ireland and absorb the first rays of the sun as they fill the ancient chambers.
  • Japan – people traditionally soak in hot baths with the Yuzu citrus fruit to protect their bodies from the common cold.
  • Korea – good luck on the solstice is associated with red bean porridge. Koreans will often make the dish both to eat and spread around the house to keep evil spirits away and keep them healthy.
  • England – Stonehenge is known for its precise alignment with the sun’s movement and may have been a sacred place of worship and celebration for solstices for thousands of year. People gather at the site to sing, dance, play instruments and kiss the stones as they wait for the sun to rise.
  • Antarctica – a swim in icy waters marks the passage of midwinter for expeditioners at Australia’s Antarctic and sub Antarctic stations. Crews mark the winter solstice with a range of activities including games, pantomimes and a gourmet dinner.
  • Iran – the family gather together, usually at the house of the oldest, and celebrate by eating, drinking and reading poems. Nuts, pomegranates and watermelons are particularly served during this festival.

How to celebrate the Winter Solstice with your kids

The Winter Solstice is a great opportunity to get together with family and friends and celebrate with your favourite warming foods and have lots of fun. Who knows, this could mark the start of a new annual tradition in your family?

Get the kids involved too by getting them into the kitchen to help you make delicious meals and try some simple activities like our Winter Solstice Lanterns to decorate your home.

Or pop over to a Solstice festival near you such as the Winter Solstice Festival by Festive Fires in Eltham, Victoria.  Experience the full festivities of the season including mulled wine, festive foods and more activities for the children.

Hearty Health specialise and are passionate about providing healthy nutritious ready meals.

To find out more about how Hearty Health ready meals, contact us here.

Health Benefits of Cooking with Kids

Cooking with kids Hearty Health

Cooking with kids teaches them lifelong skills and an appreciation of making (and eating) delicious meals that are healthy for them.

Children can start helping out in the kitchen from as early as three years old by pouring pre measured ingredients into a bowl, tearing lettuce for a salad, sprinkling cheese on a casserole and turning pages of a cookbook.

As they grow older they will develop their skills and attention span to include more challenging tasks.  These can include cracking and beating eggs, mashing potatoes, reading and following recipes, the math required to measure ingredients and even using child safe knives to cut fruits and vegetables.

Cooking with kids is more than just licking the beaters

Cooking with kids is much more than just following a recipe and eating the finished product:

  • It enables busy parents to spend time with their children.
  • Opportunity to teach children that the food we eat is not only nutritious but it also makes our bodies healthy so that we perform better at sports, are smarter and overall happier.
  • Kids develop an understanding of what raw ingredients look like before they are cooked and what is in the food they eat.

An important point to remember when cooking with kids is to keep encouraging them to regularly assist so they can develop their skills over time.  Provide them with their own aprons and utensils and ask them what they would like to make or help with as they get used to the cooking process.

For safety reasons, you should always be in the kitchen when cooking with kids, supervising and monitoring progress.

To get started, don’t plan an elaborate project — 5 to 10 minutes might be all your child wants to spend on an activity. Start small and keep it fun.

“Cooking with kids provides an opportunity to teach children that the food we eat is not only nutritious, but it also makes our bodies healthy so that we perform better both physically and mentally, and have an overall sense of well-being”  

Do it Yourself Pizza

At Hearty Health, we think assembling a healthy pizza is a great initial project for kids.  It is a perfect dinner after a long day at work and child care and tastes delicious as well.

Let your children assemble the pizza depending on their age and ability and be creative with toppings.  You can also add a variety of fresh vegetables which is a great way of introducing new tastes and textures.

Do it yourself pizza ingredients:

  • Pita bread or gluten free pizza base
  • Tomato sauce or pizza sauce
  • Grated cheese
  • Ham and/or tofu
  • Pineapple pieces
  • Mushroom

Your children will be so proud of their masterpieces that they will already be designing their next pizza topping creation by the time they are finished!

To find out more about Hearty Health contact us here.

Easter Treats for Children

Easter treats for children

Easter can be a very difficult time for children who suffer from allergies or if you are wanting to control how much sugar your child eats. Commercially, Easter treats for children focus on foods like chocolate eggs and bunnies, marshmallows and mass produced hot cross buns. These treats line supermarket shelves and are advertised on television which add to the desire to indulge. As a society it is hard to escape the constant pull of sugar from every direction.

Hearty Health pride themselves in making sure all children in child care are included when it comes to eating delicious clean healthy food. “The key is to make sure kids don’t feel like they are missing out” says Hearty Health owner and qualified chef Russell Chasteau. “We have found that as long as kids are still involved and eat tasty food, they are happy and feel involved”.  Russell has had many years’ experience working with children’s food and says a big part of the equation is allowing occasional treats.

Easter is a time of celebration and, as much as we don’t want to admit it – sugar has crept its way into most Easter treats for children. “It is up to us as care givers to manage this intake and make sure that we reduce sugar and processed food as much as possible and of course stay vigilant with allergens” continues Russell.

How do we reduce sugar at Easter when it is everywhere? Russell suggests it is all about offering delicious alternatives such as homemade dips, fresh seasonal produce and basically clean nourishing food. “It can be as simple as dishing up meals which are more appealing for children” he says. “Try making the shape of a rabbit on a plate using carrot sticks, tomatoes and cheese or a treasure hunt with apples and bananas for something fun and different”.

Our favourite Easter treats for children

Replacing highly refined sugar with its natural counterparts is also a good start for the occasional treat. Honey, maple syrup, molasses, dates and fruit purees provide a sweet taste without using refined sugar.
Our favourite and easiest Easter treat for children (and parents) would have to be our decadent chocolate slice. It is perfect for working mums and dads who want to make a quick treat for their kids while still watching how much refined sugar they digest this Easter!

The kids will love helping out too – so roll up your sleeves, pop on an apron and it is as easy as 1,2,3!

Hearty Health Chocolate Chips

*gluten/grain free, refined sugar free
1 cup coconut, desiccated or shredded
1 cup cacao powder
1 cup melted coconut oil
1 cup any organic dried fruit (I had apricots in the pantry)
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup

1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl
2. Pour into to a grease proof paper lined slice tray and for some extra fun and festivity – sprinkle with hundreds and thousands
3. Place in freezer until set and slice into chunky portions that look like fat chips to serve – yummo and filling too!
Note: this chocolate is best kept refrigerated

More Easter treats for children – keep an eye out for our delicious homemade hot cross buns that are baked from scratch in our Hearty Health kitchens!

Happy Easter from the team at Hearty Health.

Click here for more Hearty Health recipes