Tops healthy eating and food ethos

It’s healthy eating week at Tops so we wanted to talk about how the last few years have changed and shaped our menus and dishes. We have the view within the catering department at Tops that food is the most natural and wonderful joys that life has to offer. We believe that food should be eaten as seasonally as possible, created from whole foods and that children should receive an education on food building their taste from the foundations up so they enter adulthood with a great understanding of food and healthy foods. 

Think about some of your happiest memories and I bet that food was involved somewhere within. We live in a time where there is so much information available to us on which diet and foods we should be eating. So much of the time this information can contradict the other and leave us so confused on what we should be buying and eating. The good news is that you already know the answers! We have put together a list of foods that will set you on the right path for eating a healthy diet. Before we look at that list though, here are a few points to keep in mind and get you started.

Tips to keep in mind

Organic- If you can, there is nothing better. However like so many of us, our weekly shopping budget doesn’t stretch that far. But don’t panic, buying whole vegetables and red tractor meats will go a long way to ensuring a healthy diet. Buy the freshest produce available to you and produce that looks like it’s had the least interaction with a production line or factory.

Shop local– Supermarkets might seem like the cheapest option. And a lot of the time this is true. They’re also incredibly convenient and seem like a service we can’t live without, which is also true. But incorporate food purchases and meal planning with days out with the family. For example a visit to a town might incorporate a farmers market where children can see produce and understand its origins. Perhaps a country show where local suppliers sell their goods or a trip to a local farm shop. You don’t have to plan your whole day around food, but a quick pit stop to buy some of your produce will add an exciting addition to your meals.

Create an activity and make it fun– Cooking meals can seem a chore and a rush for so many of us when we are working and leading such busy lives.  It happens to the best of us! But cooking should not be a chore but an enjoyment. Cooking at home is a time I zone out and almost use for a period of mindfulness, listening to the sizzling, bubbling and tinkering of pans. It’s during this time I create meals for a few days to take the stress out of cooking during the week. On the weekend I will I cook with my two wonderful boys and use it as an activity the same as they would with colouring or arts and crafts. The enjoyment and fun we have is incredible. They understand so much more about food and have a sensory overload when exploring the different ingredients.  Make cookery and food a fun subject that involves healthy and whole food. Your children will thank you for it when they enter teenage years and adulthood!

Create a meal plan- This doesn’t have to be completely set or rigid but just a guideline that will give you time to look out for dishes you want to create or to create your own dishes. You can also plan your weekly shop and also any trips to local suppliers. 

Experiment- So many people cook with fear. Fear that they will mess up a stage in a recipe and before you know it they are cooking with anxiety and hating every minute of it. Food should be a JOY. Fun, exciting and experimental. And if you get something wrong does it really matter? The worst that will happen is the meal you eat that evening isn’t the best. We have all created terrible meals, including myself. It’s part of learning and a process however I promise the more you experiment and enjoy cooking the better you will become. Take out the fear! It’s just food!

So what is good to eat?

Think good proteins –

Protein is the building blocks for any diet. Try to ensure every dish has at least one serving.

  • Eggs (free range is best)
  • Greek yogurt
  • Chicken (think red tractor)
  • Beans, Peas and Lentils (variety from your usual meats)
  • Cottage cheese
  • Lean beef
  • Pork
  • Game meats

Whole veggies –

Think whole veggies that aren’t processed and ideally have mud still attached before you wash them! Variety is the key to vegetables. Enjoy them seasonally as they will be at their best and cost effective. is a great site to help you with this!

Roast them, steam them, grill them and sear them. But be adventurous. Think leafy greens and whole seasonal vegetables. Stick to this and you won’t go wrong. 

Fibre –

Try to ensure that Fibre is included in your meals. We have so many ingredients that provide Fibre that the options are exciting and vast. Think-

  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Avocados
  • Whole grains
  • Berries
  • Apples
  • Potatoes
  • Seeds
  • Oats

Calcium –

Children need calcium to help with their teeth and bones. It’s so important and readily available in many forms. Try to ensure that your evening meals of lunches include a form of calcium.

  • Whole milk
  • Cheese
  • Natural yoghurt
  • Fortified soy milk
  • Tofu
  • Fortified cereals

Recipe Suggestions

With these simple bits in place you are on course for a healthy diet in which you can add different nutrients and develop your dishes as you go. You can make these as simple or as complex as you like. Here are two lunches that vary in how easy they are to prepare but both are nutritionally balanced.

Beans on toast, wholemeal seeded bread and grilled cheddar

Homemade baked beans on toast, haricot beans, rich tomato sauce, and gratinated cheddar cheese.

BBQ chicken salad

BBQ chicken, pineapple, corn and black bean rice salad, yoghurt ranch dressing.

Home cooked nutritionally balanced food doesn’t have to be a chore and it certainly doesn’t have to be scary. It should be fun and explore different ingredients and different cultures. Food brings us together and creates memories that last forever. Explore, create and enjoy the food you cook!

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Posted in: General, Recipes & Nursery menus, Tops Cooking School