On Tuesday 5th March, the nation will be reaching for the frying pans to celebrate Shrove Tuesday by cooking and eating some pancakes!

In Christian traditions, the 40 days immediately before Easter (known as Lent), are observed to remind Christians of the time Jesus was fasting in the desert before beginning his ministry. In earlier times, many Christians would forego certain foods during this period including meat, fish, eggs, fats and milk.

Lent officially begins on Ash Wednesday, so on Shrove Tuesday (the day immediately before), people traditionally held festivities to use up their stocks of milk, butter and fats. Making pancakes was the perfect way to not only do this, but to have a feast in anticipation of the fasting days to come, and ‘Pancake Day’ was born!

But whilst we all love a simple treat, how can we make our Shrove Tuesday celebrations a little healthier this year? We’ve put together some of our favourite options to help you keep up the tradition but add a healthier twist to the day too.

Start with a healthier pancake mix

A simple and traditional pancake batter includes:

300ml (or half a pint) of milk
100g flour (plain or self-raising)
2 eggs
A tablespoon of fat (e.g. vegetable oil or butter)
Pinch of salt

The ingredients should be beaten together and then fried lightly in a frying pan to create the pancake. The great thing about pancakes though is that you can vary the amount of fat, eggs and milk you use, depending on the texture you are trying to achieve.

Making a healthy pancake mix could include reducing the fat content, changing the milk to semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, and taking out any butter, but you can always experiment to see which combinations you prefer.

Add some protein powder to the mix to increase the protein content, needed by the body to build cells and it can help stave off hunger-pangs too.

A great and fun alternative that children love too, is to add some food colouring to the batter to create rainbow pancakes!

Make the toppings delicious but healthy

‘Sugar and lemon juice’ is a traditional topping which can pile on the calories; especially if you are not watching how many ‘spoonfuls of sugar’ are being used! Maple syrup, full-fat cream and ice-cream can have the same effect; but you could increase your fruit (and vegetable) intake by trying one of these alternatives:

Bananas, berries and honey
Greek or coconut yoghurt mixed with peaches and pears
Baked apples with a dash of cinnamon
Fresh strawberries with reduced-sugar jam or compote
Blueberries, raspberries and a drizzle of chocolate sauce

Pancakes can be savoury as well as sweet, so why not try a couple of savoury toppings such as?

Ham, tomato and pineapple cubes
Goat’s cheese, spinach and bacon
Cucumbers, spring onions and carrots
Cream cheese and smoked salmon

Remember that children love to make faces and pictures with their food, so encourage some creative cookery art during your sessions.

Gluten-free options

Many people nowadays have food intolerances if not a full-blown allergy, and simply feel better avoiding certain foods such as flour, dairy or eggs. Since flour is one of the 3 main ingredients, you might think it difficult to replace flour in a pancake recipe, but you can mash up two large bananas, a pinch of cinnamon and some baking powder together with a whisked egg to form a batter that is gluten-free.


Making your pancakes nutritious, whilst being aware of any allergies that children have within your setting does not have to be difficult. If you are inviting people in to your setting to create pancakes, remind them of any allergies that you or the children have and avoid those in your recipes.

Eggs are one ingredient that can cause problems for some people, but you can easily get around this by using coconut oil or vegetable oil instead of eggs. However, be aware that this will increase your fat content.

If people are allergic to milk, swap to Soya or Almond milk for a tasty alternative.

Vegan and vegetarian options

If you want to create a delicious vegan option, you can swap normal milk for soya milk; use self-raising flour instead of plain flour and 1 teaspoon of soya flour instead of eggs.

And finally - increase your exercise by running a pancake race!

Pancake Day is not just about eating – there’s always great fun to be had in a traditional pancake race too!

In medieval times, the ‘shriving bell’ (from the Latin word ‘shrove’ meaning ‘to confess one’s sins’) would be rung on Shrove Tuesday, calling people to church. Legend has it that one local woman realised she was late when she heard the bell, and ran out of her cottage as fast as she could, still clutching her frying pan of pancakes.

Ever since, people have held races up and down the country; some in fancy dress, some for charity, but all with a smile and a lucky flick of the wrist! Holding a pancake race is a great way to increase the active play sessions for the children in your setting.

You don’t have to use real pancakes if you’d rather not be clearing up 20 dropped ones; it’s just as much fun if you make a paper pancake or cut one out of material. And you could cut out some frying pan-shaped pieces of cardboard to give to the children to run with. The emphasis should be on having fun here, so let your imagination take over and have a happy and healthy Pancake Day!


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