As parents, part of our job description is to worry about our kids’ eating habits. Are they eating enough of the right things or too much of the wrong things? From my own experience with my own two children, I am constantly scrutinising what they are eating and when, and inevitably getting frustrated at the lack of vegetables.
But it’s clear that I have a right to be worried. The Government’s Childhood Obesity Plan states that one in three children will be obese by the age of 11, plus studies have shown that there is a link between poor eating habits, behaviour and academic performance. It’s not just about over-eating and obesity either, an unhealthy diet can lead to all sorts of nasties in the future, including tooth decay, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Now I’m not saying that we need to empty out our cupboards and only eat fruit and vegetables for the rest of our lives. It’s about understanding the nutrition that our children need, and making some easy changes to their diets to set them up for a healthy adult life. Plus, it might help us to change our diets for the better too, we are our children’s role models after all.
What can we do?
Louise Mercieca is a nutrition expert and has written a book to help parents with this. Her book, How Food Shapes Your Child, combines the ‘science bit’ of nutrition with fun characters to get your children engaged with the process. There’s Inspector Banana, Captain Red Pepper Pants, Dr Carrot, Corporal Courgette and Tammy Tomato.
What’s great is that Louise is mum to a little boy, so her advice is practical and sensible, and doesn’t require a subscription to Waitrose to action!
What’s in the book?
The book starts off with the nutrition sections, covering obesity, sugar, gut microbiome, fussy eaters and how a child’s brain works. The language is friendly but also authoritative, with references to studies backing up Louise’s points. I found it hard to read, but only because it’s things that I know I’ve been head-in-the-sands about. It’s certainly a good wake up call.
The remainder of the book is dedicated to recipes, including breakfasts, lunches, dinners and there’s even a baking section! The recipes are laid out really nicely, with easy to follow instructions and no big shopping list of expensive ingredients required. Louise uses plant milks and coconut oil in the recipes, so they would be brilliant for children who have intolerances or allergies.
What did I think?
There’s a great range of recipes in the book, all geared towards families. For example, Louise acknowledges that all kids love sandwiches and toast, so there’s a spreads and jams section with things like homemade nut butter. I found it really prompted me to think about different foods and options for meals, even if I didn’t stick religiously to the recipes. The fruit and vegetable characters pop up throughout the book, so you could sit down and look through it with your children together.
This book will be much thumbed by me over the coming weeks, months and years. It’s a treasure trove of yummy foods that don’t taste like cardboard, and you know with everything that you’re doing the best for your children.