Five a day. On paper, it doesn’t sound too scary, does it? But for loads of parents who email, call and write to us every day, I know that even with the news of pledges from supermarkets, caterers and retailers this week under the Fruit and Veg Responsibility Deal, it can still feel a bit like Mission Impossible.
It feels like we hear it in the news every day, but it’s too important not to say it again: too many children simply aren’t eating enough fruit and veg. Results from a national dietary survey published in the summer showed that just 11% of boys and 8% of girls in the 11-18 year old group get their five-a-day.
Eating habits develop in children’s very early years, so we’ve got to start as early as possible. At the moment, our national research on how kids eat at school shows that while we’re making progress – there’s more fruit and veg on school menus (and on their plates) thanks to the combination of hard work by school cooks, clearer messages from schools to parents and tougher regulation, and as more schools use healthy policies on what kids can bring in lunchboxes – children still aren’t eating enough of it.
So we’ve got to keep being creative. With some children, getting them trying fruit and veg can be really tough (think the culinary equivalent of that MI 2 rock face climb that Tom Cruise did!). But we can’t afford not to stick with it.
So, your mission – should you choose to accept it – is to get your kids on a fruit and veg mission…
…to get shopping for fruit and veg with you. Get them to guess the name of the weird-looking veg; to choose which colour peppers to buy; to count how many green/red/yellow/orange/purple veggies they can spot.
…to get cooking fruit and veg with you. Give them the chance to choose what’s on the menu using the fruit and veg you’ve bought –watch out for our regular Let’s Get Cooking with recipes for making with children (you’ll spot them on Twitter using the hashtag #LetsGetCooking). Cooking really does work to get kids trying new things – we know, we’ve tried it!
…to get a good fruit and veg example from you. Keep your own likes and dislikes to yourself! Eat fruit and veg with them – particularly important in those early years. There’s loads of information on this in our guidelines for nurseries, children’s centres and childminders.
…to get creative with fruit and veg with you – check out our Pinterest boards for some weird and wonderful ideas on making fruit and veg fun, and try growing some at home – cress in a pot on the windowsill or tomatoes and runner beans in pots work well.
Don’t give up. Kids often need many, many tries of a food before they will accept it. Think of yourself as the Ethan Hunt of making fruit and veg fun. This message will self-destruct in 5 seconds.
Well, actually it won’t – it would be great if you might share it on, but let’s not spoil the dramatic effect….
Laura’s one of our nutritionists. Email Laura.