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Author Sarah Kirton
Sarah Kirton
Created on Nov 22nd, 2022
Fact checked by Emma Vince

Mini Mealtimes 2023: Get the Best For Your Kids

Marie Farmer, Founder of Mini Mealtimes, explains how the company’s app can help parents provide their children with the very best nutrition.

Marie, can you tell us about the Mini Mealtimes app?

Our app aims to help parents understand their children's nutrition. We live in a busy, modern world where time is so scarce. There are so many products available, which makes it hard (and time-consuming) to understand exactly what nutrition your child needs.

Parents want to feed their children healthy, nutritious food but, for the most part, simply don’t have the time. The Mini Mealtimes app helps establish the nutritional needs of a child while providing reassurance and education to parents. It offers unbiased information and tools so that parents can log their child’s nutrition, understand it, and watch it evolve.

You can enter a shop, scan a product, or type it in manually and the app will break the ingredients down into fat content, sugar content, etc… In addition, you’ll see how this relates to what your child needs specifically, depending on criteria such as age and sex (keeping in mind a child’s nutritional needs will change as they grow). 

How did you come up with the idea for Mini Mealtimes?

I was looking to buy porridge for my son a few years ago and glanced at the breakdown of ingredients on the packaging. I was astounded to see the high levels of sodium, which were well over the recommended amount.

As parents and adults, we usually have no idea what the recommended amounts should be and we rely on marketing slogans and food packaging to guide us in the right direction. Often, the packaging can be extremely misleading and most people don’t have the time to analyze the ingredients. 

My son was a very “fussy eater”, more so than others, and after seeing a few specialists, I started to look more into labels and what was going into the foods we were buying. I really struggled to get a clear and simple understanding of nutritional information, and that’s when the idea of Mini Mealtimes came about. I wanted to group all the necessary information into one place, break it down, and simplify it! It’s a dietitian in a parent’s pocket.

Why are salt, sugar, and fat consistently present in our food?

The simple answer is that it tastes good and people buy it! It’s a business after all. We must remember that fat, salt, and sugar are present in all foods, to varying degrees, and that they’re not necessarily “bad” for us. What’s important to take into account is the amount of these foods that we consume, how often per week, and portion sizes.

Sugar and fat are excellent ways to preserve food and have been used for centuries in this way. These days, we eat a lot of foods that aren’t in season, products are shipped from all over the world and manufacturers have to maintain standards and shelf life. Sugar is in almost everything and really the only way to avoid sugar is by cooking from scratch. 

Why do you think retailers don’t focus more on stocking healthier products for children?

I believe that retailers (and manufacturers alike) are trying to. We’re seeing more and more nutritional products from smaller-scale companies on our shelves but as I said before, it all comes down to business.

How do you come up with your recipes?

We have a person, and sometimes a team, who experiments in the kitchen and comes up with fun recipes. We also take suggestions from parents who use the app. We’ve tried to limit the cost of ingredients and lower prices overall. We’ve even come up with recipes costing under £5, or under £30 for a family of four.

I’m very sensitive to food poverty and awareness of cooking facilities, issues that are often forgotten in the Western world.

What other services do you provide?

Other than the app, nutritional reports, breakdowns, and recipes, we also offer a one-to-one service with dietitians for parents seeking nutritional guidance for their children. It’s a tricky balance because, as educational and valuable as the consultations may be, they’re not free. The app, on the other hand, is.

As things stand now, the majority of the funds from the consultations go back into the app to provide more (free) resources for parents. Helping parents is the top priority for us.

What advice do you have for new parents about overall nutrition for their children?

Start kids on vegetables as early as you can. Often we introduce fruit first, which leans towards the sweeter side of life. By introducing vegetables first, the child’s palate will develop a “tolerance” for the more “bitter” or “sour” side of life. Children’s palates are so refined, they can taste EVERYTHING.

Their taste buds are very sensitive so it’s important to introduce new foods slowly and always introduce new flavors individually. Offer the same food in different variations: raw, roasted, steamed etc… More importantly, relax, take the pressure off yourselves, and go slow! 

How would you define a “fussy eater”? What advice would you offer parents of fussy eaters?

I don’t think children are necessarily “fussy eaters”. As I previously mentioned, their palates are extremely sensitive and therefore a slow and methodical approach should be employed when introducing new foods.

Do you always cook from scratch?

No, not always. I find a balance between buying ready-made foods and cooking from scratch. When I say ready-made, I’m not referring to meals per se, but rather to something like a chicken that has been pre-cooked or seasoned. Not everybody has the bank balance or the time to cook from scratch, so it really is about finding a balance that works for you.

How did COVID-19 impact your business?

We launched in 2020 just before the emergence of the global pandemic. A lot of people actually came on board and started using the app because they had more time on their hands and most people started thinking more about food.

On the other hand, we had a lot of in-person events lined up that were obviously not able to happen, and this slowed us down a little. We’re continuing to grow though, and are excited to see what the future holds for us.

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