What is my preschooler eating in school? Loh Huey May, Innovation and Nutrition Executive with SATS has the answers
Stodgy pizzas, greasy noodles, and sauce-soaked meat with bland porridge be gone! Today’s preschoolers and young primary school children enjoy a healthier, tastier variety of food thanks, in part, to the team of nutritionists who work daily to ensure they go home well-fed and happy.
It might not be common knowledge but a number of preschools and primary schools employ SATS Food Solutions to provide daily meals for students. Part of SATS Food Solutions' institutional catering services, schools and childcare institutions such as Blangah Rise Primary School, MindChamps, NTUC K-Care, Farrer Park Primary School and others benefit from tasty and nutritious meals planned and developed by experts at the SATS kitchens.
“It’s a collaborative effort between the institutional catering chefs from the SATS Food Solutions team and nutritionists,” explains Loy Huey May, an Innovation and Nutrition Executive who plays a crucial role in ensuring the food not only tastes good, but meets the nutritional requirements for growing children between the ages of two to six. “Part of my role includes identifying allergens in meals (allergen screening) conducting nutrition analysis for all the meals, and providing nutritional advice to chefs.”
Some of the official guidelines that she and her fellow nutritionists follow include the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA), My Healthy Plate (MHP) principles, and the Healthy Meals in Preschool Programme (HMPP).
Allergen screening is a key protocol test to help nutritionists and chefs address individual allergies as they prepare food. SATS Food Solutions follows the EU declaration of the 14 more common allergens which include gluten, egg, dairy, peanuts, soy, certain seafood and other common allergens.
Occasionally, Huey May and the team receive cases with special dietary restrictions, “for these cases we work together with the chefs to come up with a menu for those who require special care,” she explains.
Elaborating on her work done for preschool and primary school catering, she shares: “we plan the serving portions for each dish, and ensure that each child is provided with essential nutrients and the right portions,” Once a variety of meals have been planned out, the menu is presented to various stakeholders for a final evaluation.
This is an example of some of the dishes served at meal times in the schools.
Some dishes you’ll find on the menu for your little ones include Chicken Rendang Rice Bowl, Tangy Fish Rice Bowl, Sweet BBQ Chicken Rice Bowl, and Teriyaki Chicken Rice Bowl amongst others. Huey May explains that while they do pay attention to the children’s favourite foods, one goal is to also expose children to a healthy variety of dishes.
Between the ages of two to six, children mark important milestones in their development, which is why Huey May explains that it is crucial that they maintain an active lifestyle and a balanced diet. As they grow, school-going children need to consume a variety of foods from different food groups to ensure an optimal intake of calories, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals as well as good fats which can come from avocados and fish.
At home, Huey May suggests that it is best for children to get freshly cooked food and to have a limited amount of processed food. “Parents should also be mindful of the amount of salt used in their cooking and limit the use of sauces as they are usually high in salt content. For snacks, try to opt for fresh fruits, wholegrain biscuits and complement them with yogurt and milk.” She also recommends that children have two to three servings of dairy products a day, which will introduce adequate calcium into their diet and promote bone growth.
Having been with SATS for two years now, Huey May shares that she’s appreciative of the opportunities she has had to meet and work with different stakeholders – including the kids who she prepares meals for:
“I conducted a healthy bento-making workshop for Primary 1 kids at one of the schools we cater for. The kids were really adorable!” Huey May gushes and adds, “it also gave me a chance to identify the favourite foods of that particular age group and better understand what they expect and want in a meal.”
Another project Huey May is particularly proud of is the launch of “Whole-meal Healthier Choice Muffins”. Together with SATS’ chief baker, she developed four flavours (banana, carrot, apple crumble, and chocolate chip) of healthier muffins to be rolled out for SATS Food Solutions’ catering clients in the healthcare and educare industries.
In her role, Huey May has worked on different aspects of food product development, she has had a hand in developing healthier products for different ranges of convenience Ready-To-Eat meals, sauces and wholesome snacks to qualify for the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS) by Singapore's Health Promotion Board (HPB). She credits her good experience in SATS to the people she works with: “working together with June (Group Dietitian) has allowed me to enhance my nutrition skills, and I’ve also learned a lot of about food processing and technology from my food technologist colleagues.”
For those eyeing a role in nutrition, Huey May shares that having a passion for cooking is helpful as it adds value to daily tasks, such as meal planning and sensory evaluation.