We are what we eat — a common phrase and potential worry for parents of young children in school where they have less control over what their children consume. But parents at House on the Hill never have to worry — we not only embrace the responsibility of feeding our children healthy meals, but children here enjoy the delicious and varied menu. Our distinctive menu has gotten the stamp of approval from Singapore’s Healthy Meals in Pre-schools Programme (HMPP), from internationally renowned nutritionist Ian Marber, and most importantly from the children and families of House on the Hill.
We dedicate ourselves to creating healthy meals for children because we understand the health and behavioral consequences of nutrition for preschool aged children. Numerous studies show that balanced diets help children to be focused and energized in the classroom, a must for the daily exploration taking place in our Montessori environment! We must not only feed them healthy food now, but teach children to appreciate and choose healthy food in the future. Susan Baker, MD, PhD, writes that “food preferences, eating behaviors, and decisions about pleasurable foods begin early and probably last throughout the life” making it essential that as educators we help preschoolers develop healthy food habits, beginning with introducing children to healthy foods that they love to eat (source).
So how do we do it? We begin with freshness. Fresh produce is delivered to our campuses daily and each meal is prepared daily and served within two hours. Next is ingredients; our shopping carts are always colorful and varied. We serve brown rice, whole meal pasta, and whole grain bread. Throughout the menu children enjoy sweet potatoes, cherries, edamame, strawberries, jackfruit, chickpeas, and other fruits and vegetables from around the world. We pay as close attention to what goes in our dishes as what does not go in — we never add sugar, salt, or other sauces and flavor powders to our dishes and yet they remain delicious and appealing to our children.
Before joining House on the Hill some parents think it is impossible that their child will eat fennel, mushrooms or starfruit. And although we tell parents how delicious it is, it is ultimately children like Oli (graduated 2018) who convince their parents and rave about it at home. Oli’s mom said, “he loved the food offered at the school,” and that the “incredibly healthy but delicious menu has been devised with small ones in mind.” Picky eating can be common at this age, but many expert suggestions about how to combat picky eating are already incorporated into the HotH menu and routine, such as eating as a group and without distractions, offering a variety of flavors that are reintroduced every so often, and involving children in the preparation (a favorite afternoon snack is the Make-Your-Own-Salad with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and more).
At House on the Hill the delicious and nutritious food feeds bellies and minds. A child who is well fed will be able to play and learn to their fullest potential. And a child who learns to love nutritious and fresh food will not only make life easier for their parents now, but will be making their own life healthier in the long term.