Nourishing Young Minds with Healthy and Sustainable Menus

Are you tired of battling fussy eaters and worried about the nutritional value of the food your children consume? If so, you’re not alone. Many parents, guardians, and grandparents share your concerns. That’s why we’re excited to introduce you to Lara, our new cook at Cire’s Mt Evelyn Early Learning Centre, who is revolutionising how we think about children’s meals. In this post, we’ll explore the magic Lara brings to our kitchen with her focus on nutrition and sustainability. Get ready to discover how you can bring these principles into your home and nourish growing minds with healthy, sustainable food choices.

Meet Lara
Lara joined Cire this year, bringing her a wealth of experience and a passion for nutrition and sustainability. She has worked with many socially responsible and organic organisations prioritising health and sustainability. Now, Lara is using her skills to create nutritious, delicious meals for the children at Cire’s Mt Evelyn Early Learning Centre.

Lara’s love for cooking was sparked at Gopal’s Pure Vegetarian Restaurant in Melbourne. This experience set her on the path to becoming a chef, and she further honed her skills at the Sofitel Hotel and Jacques Reymond’s. Her career has taken her from the city to the suburbs, including Wholefood Merchants vegan café in Ferntree Gully.

Why Cire is the Perfect Fit
Cire’s holistic approach to community care aligns perfectly with Lara’s values. From early learning to engaging the elderly, Cire Services focuses on the wellbeing of all its members, which Lara finds inspiring. This inclusive and innovative environment allows her to implement practices that benefit both the children and the planet.

“I really enjoy engaging with the children and staff at the centre to encourage excitement about healthy food choices and sustainable practices.” Lara Lynch – Cook, Cire Early Learning – Mt Evelyn

Since joining the team, Lara has achieved so much. She has introduced healthy, sustainable practices in the kitchen and created meals that the children love, making her a valuable addition to the Cire community.

Creating Excitement About Healthy Food
Lara’s dedication to nutrition is personal. With her own children, she has navigated the challenges of finding foods that don’t trigger eczema. She uses whole foods and slow cooking at home, practices she’s brought to the Cire kitchen. She boosts nutrition and digestibility by replacing tinned beans and legumes with soaked dry ones.

Lara makes her own seasoning mixes to keep the kitchen salt-free while still delivering flavour. Yeast flakes, which boost the immune system, are a staple in her seasoning mixes, which she adds to slow-cooked casseroles and curries. Lara ensures children meet their daily vegetable requirements by incorporating hidden and visible vegetables into her dishes. This approach teaches children that vegetables are good for them and add colour and flavour to their meals.

By engaging children in the cooking process, Lara helps them understand the importance of nutrition. She encourages them to try new vegetables and fruits, explaining their benefits in a fun and interactive way. This hands-on approach makes meals more enjoyable and instils healthy eating habits from a young age.

The Fun of Sandwich Time
Sandwich time at Mt Evelyn is an interactive experience where children experiment with colours, flavours, and textures. They either choose from a variety of pre-made sandwiches or create their own from a platter of vegetables, cheese, and spreads. By allowing children to have a say in their eating, Lara ensures they get the nutrients they need while reducing food wastage.

Sustainability Practices at Cire
Sustainability is a key focus at Cire Early Learning Centres. Lara incorporates several practices to reduce food waste and teach children the importance of caring for the planet from a young age. Some of these practices include:

  1. Mandarin Tea
    The children save the peels from their mandarins, which are washed, dried, and used to make tea. A touch of natural vanilla essence makes this afternoon treat a delightful experience.
  2. Zero Waste Breadcrumbs
    The crusts from every loaf of bread and any leftover stale bread are dried out, blended, and turned into breadcrumbs to minimise waste. These breadcrumbs are used in fish burger patties and to crumb chicken nuggets.
  3. The Lemony Journey
    During winter, the children patiently waited for lemons to ripen. They then explored the zest, pith, and juicy middle of the lemons, using them in lemon cake, fish risotto, lemon rice, and various baked goods. This hands-on experience taught the children about the different parts of a lemon and how to use them in cooking.

Lara’s work at Cire’s Mt Evelyn Centre exemplifies how healthy, sustainable menus can nourish growing minds. By prioritising nutrition, engaging with children, and incorporating sustainable practices, Lara is positively impacting the health and wellbeing of the children in her care. Parents, guardians, and grandparents can take inspiration from Lara’s approach and implement similar practices at home.

Before you go, Lara has shared one of her favourite dishes for you to prepare at home, along with her stock powder recipe that we recommend you use in this dish. This recipe is a favourite with the little ones at Mt Evelyn.

Beef Curry with Lemon Rice
Healthy Stock Powder for curries, casseroles and soups
(a healthy alternative to store-bought stock powder).

Find out more about the services at Cire Early Learning.

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For more tips on healthy eating and sustainable practices, be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook. Together, we can nourish growing minds and create a healthier, more sustainable future.

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