Updated: Sep 29, 2020
The photo is of my son filling out his #eatthemtodefeatthem chart (which he is pretty chuffed with!).
Recently ITV and Veg Power launched a campaign to raise awareness for kids to eat more vegetables. Whilst I am not 100% sure about the ‘defeat’ them aspect of the campaign (I feel it could have been more along the lines of eating more veg to defeat bacteria/viruses i.e. support the immune system), it is wonderful to see this come into the public space.
As a qualified Nutritional Therapist you may imagine that my son eats a super healthy diet….however I have been blessed with a child who is a very particular eater! I may have all the knowledge and experience to know what constitutes a healthy diet for children but that doesn’t mean I have a child who conforms to this!
I just want to be honest and authentic about this. I hope it may take pressure off other parents who may feel like getting their kids to eat vegetables is a struggle. Even among nutrition professionals it’s not necessarily smooth sailing. I am lucky in that my son enjoys and regularly eats about 6 vegetables and occasionally eats others. Not a whole lot of variety there! However I just make sure that he eats 3 to 4 of those vegetables every day. Like most kids, he loves fruit and is much more open to trying new fruits so I ensure he has 2 to 3 portions of fruit a day also.
I spent quite a while stressing about my son’s ‘particular’ eating habits, and it didn’t help in the slightest, so I gave it up.
Here are few tips I have found useful that I hope may help other parents who struggle around what their kids eat:
· As much as you, relax your thinking about what they do or don’t eat. It only upsets you, and them, when we add stress/guilt to meal times. Remember to enjoy the child you have been gifted, rather than the one you think they should be.
· I ate carrot, peas and cucumber ONLY when I was a child and now I eat almost every vegetable out there. Remember that the only constant of life is change, and their eating habits will change too when they are ready.
· Of the vegetables they do enjoy, make sure you give them these 3 to 4 times a day. Top up with fruit 2 to 3 times a day also (dried fruit counts once a day).
· Eat plenty of vegetables yourself so that they see you doing this, and try new vegetables together. Kids like to emulate their parents so lead by example and eat your veg!
· If they like juice, include a freshly juiced carrot, apple and orange juice in their diet. My son loves this, as well as smoothies.
· Beans and pulses also count as one of the 5 a day, so foods like hummus and baked beans (low sugar) also count.
· Limit sugar in their diet as this suppresses the immune system. If they don’t eat many vegetables this is an especially important factor.
· If you child thrives on a reward system then use the chart provided by Eat Them to Defeat Them to encourage them. Or you could make your own.
As parents we can only ever do our best to guide our children, and make it easy for them to access healthy foods. In my opinion, getting on with the business of loving them unconditionally, for who they truly are, is more important than expending energy stressing over what they eat.
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