Those of you who follow me on Instagram have probably noticed that on most days I post my children’s packed lunch. I’m hoping to give people some inspiration, but also to show that what my kids eat on a daily basis isn’t always particularly fancy or even cooked following a recipe, but more often than not a jumble of things I have in the fridge/cupboard. Having said that I always put some thought into it, making sure it’s nutritionally balanced and provides all the nutrients they need.
"How do you get them to eat things like beans, lentils, greens and the like?" I often get messages from people wondering how I get the boys to eat these things and the answer is persistence. Are they always happy with what they find in their lunchboxes? No. Just like all kids they complain about certain things they don’t like, they are far from thrilled if they find spinach or kale for example and would much prefer it if I stuck with what they like most. Variety is key though and I have seen a steady increase in foods they love or at least accept over the years just by persisting and incorporating them over and over again. Now that they are old enough to understand I try to explain to them why all plant foods have their own specific super powers and that our gut microbes need a bit of everything to live their best life. Even if knowing why spinach is so good for them doesn’t necessarily mean they then immediately love it, I firmly believe that children who learn about nutrition and get used to eating a big variety of foods you wouldn’t find on a kids menu (kids menus are a terrible idea!) will have a healthier approach to food for the rest of their lives. And sometimes it’s simply a case of putting my foot down, because I refuse to waste food and - maybe this is a little old fashioned - I believe that everything tastes good if you’re hungry, so whatever isn’t eaten at school they’ll finish later on at home (by that time they would have played tennis or football, climbed several trees or walked the dogs with me and are happy to polish off any leftovers).
All of this to say that feeding children a healthy, varied, plant-based diet free of junk food and overly sugary treats can be a challenge at times – highly processed ready meals are everywhere and most of us are constantly time poor so cooking up a healthy meal can seem an impossible task – but one that I’m more than happy to take on. I think I would go as far as to say I see it as part of my responsibilities as a mother to make sure my children have a healthy start in life, giving their bodies the right kind of calories and nutrients they need to thrive, while also educating them about the origin of our foods, seasonality, how things end up on our plate and how we can chose cruelty free and planet friendly plant foods rather than animal foods. It's definitely not the path of least resistance, but in my opinion it's more than worth it so I’ll keep it up, one day at the time, because we are what we eat.