Having fun and getting involved in the kitchen at an early age is the aim of Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust’s (LPT) early years nutrition and dietetics public health team, who have launched a new online resource to help get families cooking together.

A range of step-by-step, budget friendly, yummy, easy to prepare and nutritionally balanced recipes are now available on the Health For Under 5s website for free, complete with easy to follow guides and videos to help get all the family cooking together – including little ones too!

There are recipe ideas for packed lunches and dinners, such as tasty sandwich fillings, baked vegetable samosas and a ‘pleasing pasta’ dish. The recipe videos all include ideas of how to get one to five-year-olds involved with all aspects of food preparation in an age-appropriate way, for example measuring ingredients using spoons, tearing herbs with their hands and using safer chopping and grating techniques for smaller hands.

The launch of the recipes coincide with British Nutrition Foundation’s Healthy Eating Week, running this week (13-17 June) and Dietitians Week, running from 20-24 June. Each video recipe has been developed and filmed by the team. They have been tried and tested with a range of families in Leicester City, as part of the Big Cook, Little Cook programme, which is run by LPT and delivers both face to face and virtual training courses to parents of one to five-year-olds.

The team decided to develop the online recourses for parents after they couldn’t deliver their usual face-to-face training during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

LPT senior nutritionist, Joanne Reade, who helped to develop the recipes and videos, said: “Getting families in the kitchen together and cooking meals from scratch is so important, especially for young children. By getting them involved, it helps them to associate food with fun and enjoyment, which will in turn increase their willingness to try a range of meals, helping ensure they can enjoy a variety of foods that meet their nutritional needs.

“However, we know that to be able to do this we need to give parents the confidence through education on nutrition, as well as teaching them about preparation and cooking techniques. Not all parents are not used to cooking meals from scratch or using healthy ingredients like fruit and vegetables. We find that some parents and children don’t know what certain fruits and vegetables look like in their natural state, or how to prepare them and use them in meals, because they have never been taught about them.

“We wanted to help and create something that was easy for families to follow and accessible to everyone. The videos clearly demonstrate preparation techniques, so that people can see what to do and follow along if they want to. We also don’t use any complicated equipment – for most of the recipes you just need items families will have in their kitchen, such as bowels, spoons and scissors.

“What’s more, parents may also find that, not only will their child be getting a balanced and healthy meal, but they save money too using the basic healthy staples.”

For young children, cooking along with parents can also be a developmental and learning experience.

Joanne added: “The recipes are all fun to do and can be a real multi-sensory experience for children; seeing all the difference colours, feeling new textures and developing their fine motor skills by getting involved.

“When we hold classes in person, we always get the children doing something to help. We hope this new resource will help parents to do the same thing at home. We’d loved to get as many families involved as we can.”

All the recipes on the site are balanced and have a protein source, or they come with a serving suggestion. The videos also clearly show what would be a healthy portion size for a one to two-year-old or three to four-year-old.

To view the recipes go to: bit.ly/h4u5shealthyrecipes . More meal ideas will continue to be added regularly, so parents are encouraged to keep checking the site for more inspiration.