I love being a Mum. I came to parenthood relatively late in life but it wasn’t without trying. The whole process involved lots of heartache so I’m truly thankful every day for my boys’ existence. It’s not easy though; being a parent or carer comes with its challenges. Feeding my children is one of those parental responsibilities that I take very seriously. Sometimes it’s a joy and at other times (when I’m busy and my children are tired and irritable) it feels like feeding time at the zoo. However busy I am the priority is to give them something tasty and nourishing to fuel their little bodies and minds. That’s how bace began because I don’t always have the time to cook from scratch but want to ensure that my children are getting plenty of veg in their diet.
When you think about 5-A-Day experts say that balance should be more in favour of vegetables. 5 is the minimum guideline so we aim higher! These are my tips for smashing your 5-A-Day and making mealtimes an enjoyable experience.
I always serve some chopped raw veg and salad with dinner. Children tend to love batons of carrot, cucumber and celery plus avocado and tomatoes. You could even serve this before their main meal while they’re waiting for it to come to the table. Get them involved in the kitchen chopping the veg if they’re old enough and capable. They’ll need supervision! Take them to your local farm shop so they can choose their own vegetables.
Go for sharing-style meals. It’s much more convivial and less daunting for children. They don’t like their plates piled high with food. Being allowed the freedom to choose what they want to put on their plate gives them some responsibility. You may need to direct them slightly! My children love Mexican style meals with tortilla wraps, beans, cooked chicken or halloumi cheese, salads, rice etc. They love the whole theatre of it! I tend to serve most of my meals in this way. I’ll even take a pot of chilli to the table with the rice so that I can dish up small amounts of chilli and they help themselves to rice and salad. You can always have seconds.
Serve sides in small individual ramekin dishes. This might sounds crazy but bear with me. I serve coleslaw in this way to my children and they gobble it up. Guarantee that if I put a spoonful of coleslaw on their plate they’d leave it or just push it around. You could do the same with portions of peas and sweetcorn and give them a teaspoon. We call this Norwich City veg due to the colour combo. Children can be mysterious little creatures at times.
I remember Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s speaking some years ago about encouraging children to eat vegetables. He said that children will eat any veg if it’s coated in garlic butter. It’s got to be worth a try and much healthier than a pile of dough balls and garlic butter. Chat about where the vegetables were grown and show them on a map if the veg have come from more exotic climes.
My children love any kind of soup. It’s a great way of getting them to eat a pile of veg in one sitting. I either chop the veg really small or puree it once it’s cooked. Sometimes I puree half of the soup and leave the other half chunky. Either way they’ll devour soup and really enjoy dipping hunks of bread into it. The secret to a tasty soup is a good stock and always start it off with some onion, carrot and garlic in oil. Saute gently for 10 mins before adding more veg such as sweet potato, butternut squash, leeks, swede etc. Lentils and beans bulk it out and make it into more of a meal. Remember that pulses count as one of your 5-A-Day.
And finally, I aim to make meal times an occasion; it should be an opportunity to sit down at a table, without any distractions of TV or tech. Eating together as a family isn’t always possible but we make the effort to do it as much as possible. We play our favourite music and everyone has a chance to chat about their day. It’s a good way to check in with everyone. Pure bliss.