Children and Vegetables
The five a day campaign has done a great job at informing most of us of recommendations about consumption of fruit and vegetables. What we choose to do as with this information is our own prerogative. As adults, as long as we have the right information, we can make our own health choices.
When it comes to the eating habits of small children it can be slightly less straight forwards. Even with all the right information, actually encouraging a 2-year-old to eat their broccoli may be a different matter.
Firstly, here is a reminder of the advice from the NHS;
- Children should eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables in a day
- As a rough guide one portion is the amount they can fit in the palm of their hand.
- Potatoes DONT count as part of 5 a day
- A glass of unsweetened fruit juice does count (but only as one portion no matter how many glasses are consumed)
- Pulses and beans DO count as a portion of 5 a day (but only one portion no matter how much is eaten)
- Tinned and frozen fruit and vegetables DO count.
- Dried fruit DOES count.
Now if only it was easy to apply this advice to little people. On the whole my two love fruit. Sometimes they are great friends with their vegetables. Occasionally it can be struggle to persuade them to eat their greens, or reds or oranges or whatever colour it is to which they have taken dislike.
If they are having a fussy phase these are some ways that encourage my children to eat vegetables:
1. Blend into a tomato based sauce: This is a staple in our house. I always have tinned tomatoes stashed somewhere in the cupboard. I often steam a variety of different vegetables and then blend in with tinned tomatoes and seasoning. A form of this sauce goes with almost everything; pasta, rice, chicken, fish.
2. Hidden in a turkey burger: I’m a bit of a fan of making turkey burgers. It’s really satisfying (and importantly easy) to make my own. As Pumpkin is still little I like to know exactly what goes into them and don’t add any salt. I usually cook sweet potato/carrot/onion and then mix with the raw mince, shape into burgers and cook in the oven. I’m still working on the perfect recipe to share on the blog. I was slightly over-enthusiastic with the vegetables in the last batch and although perfectly tasty, they were also, ummm…. a little orange.
3. On top of a homemade pizza: I often make versions of pizzas out of mini-tortilla wraps, crumpets or using a pastry base. It doesn’t really matter; if it’s called a pizza, Sunflower will eat it. The picture has a particularly simple selection of peas and sweetcorn on top. In reality I use whatever vegetables are in the fridge or freezer.
4. Masquerading as chips: Sunflower is at the age that chips have become a real treat. I lightly fry a section of vegetables in stick shapes; squash, courgette, carrot, sweet potatoes, and call them chips. She is just as happy with these as proper fries… well almost!
5. Inside lasagne: I published this healthy version of lasagne a couple of weeks ago. It uses a high proportion of vegetables to meat.
6. Call them a snack: I have yet to meet a pre-schooler who doesn’t enjoy a snack. Snack time often involves yoghurt or raisins or a slice of bread. However, if Sunflower’s day has involved more cake than carrot, and her snack is little sticks of peppers, carrots or cucumber.
7. Put them on a stick: Vegetable kebabs definitely increase the children’s interest in vegetables.
8. Make a soup: Almost anything in the fridge can be turned into a vegetable soup. I don’t know why but Sunflower and Pumpkin love to dip their bread into soup. It makes it even more exciting than just spooning it.
9. Involve them in growing vegetables: I would love to have a vegetable garden. However my back yard last year resulted in a tiny selection of raspberries, tomatoes and unintentionally miniature beetroots.
I hope involving children in growing vegetables increases their enthusiasm for their consumption. Once the lettuce seedlings have grown I’ll be better able to test this theory.
I think the same applies to involving kids simply making choices about fruit and vegetables. Selecting their preference at the Supermarket, choosing and helping to prepare what to eat with dinner, increases interest in (and hopefully consumption of) the end product.
As my last point indicates I don’t necessarily think that hiding vegetables is the perfect way to encourage children to eat them. Ideally we need to encourage them to enjoy fruit and vegetables and not see them as unpleasant foods to be hidden away inside something more appealing.
However, I know it’s not always that easy, particularly in you have a little one with picky tastes. I’m sure a lot of you have your own ways to ensure your little ones get their advised five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. I hope sharing some of my day-to-day examples are helpful too.
Bonus point 10: Put them in a cake: I know, I know, this is probably not the best form in which to eat vegetables, but it is my favourite blog recipe so far and makes a pretty picture! healthy carrot & coconut cake pops with chia seeds.
Do let me know your preferred way for encouraging little ones to eat their five a day.