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Children, fresh fruit and vegetables - are we too obsessed?

I had to share this piece by Tim Lott in The Observer last week.

Tim talks about the struggle he had to get his eldest daughter Ruby to eat fruit and vegetables as a child. Ruby refused to eat anything remotely healthy and the article starts with him talking about the meltdown he had with her at Ikea Brent Cross over a pea. He was determined for her to eat just one little pea, even if it was smothered in tomato ketchup or dipped in honey. But, despite offering rewards and punishments, she wouldn't eat the pea and hasn't ever eaten one since. Ruby is now 20 years old and has a very healthy attitude to food. She eats steak tartare, craves sushi and sashimi and will try most things. She has no body or food issues, has glowing skin and is a healthy weight. Perfect in fact, but she still doesn't eat peas, green vegetables and salad because ?they don't taste good?.

The piece raises some really interesting points. Are we more concerned with what our children eat, because it is better for them health-wise? Or because what it says about us socially? So if our child always leaves the vegetables, are we embarrassed about what that says about us as parents?

Do we, as Tim suggests, want to fit in with our neighbours by making the correct social signals to our peer group ? "I am a good middle-class person because my children eat a varied diet and healthy food".

And are we ?terrified our children might be overweight, which is now as much a social marker as a predictor of poor health?.

Should we just accept that, if our child doesn't like greens, then they'll get their nutrients from elsewhere and turn out fine in the end anyway like Ruby? Is smothering a pea in ketchup worth it? After all, ketchup is full of sugar.

My personal (slightly tangential) experience is that, when I was pregnant with my son, Tom, all my body could stomach was the most unhealthy junk food possible. I'd have cravings for battered sausage and chips and would quite often be seen running to Euston Station from Perform HQ to Harry Ramsdens! I felt sick at the thought of salad and, for nine months, I never ate a piece of fruit or a single vegetable. Nevertheless, I still had a very healthy little baby of 8 pounds 8 ounces who we now call a ?fruit bat', because he would prefer an apple to a Twix any day.

So it's definitely food for thought and any thoughts and comments would be appreciated. Are parents socially motivated to see their children eating ?correct food? Are we more embarrassed than worried about their health when they don't eat their peas? I'd love your feedback!

Leave a comment

    From Barbara Nicholson
    We are told that we should eat '5 portions a day' of fruit and vegetables to stay healthy. Just because you are slim and have glowing skin, which goes with the territory at the age of 20, doesn't necessarily mean you are healthy or will stay that way. By eating fruit and vegetables, we are told that we will help fight off potential health risks such as heart problems, high blood pressure, certain cancers, etc. in the future and that is more important to me than any social or peer pressure. I want my children to have a positive attitude to what they eat, enjoy food and have a healthy balance. Luckily, they both now love fruit and vegetables (it took some encouragement in the early days) but of course they love sweets and biscuits too. I don't think things should be 'forbidden' or used as rewards and I think parents should do what they feel is best for their own kids, because they are all different, without worrying too much about what other people think.
    From Paul Tato
    I like the introdutory words of Michael Pollan's In defence of Food, where he says:

    'Eat food. Not much. Mostly plants'

    But a sausage in batter now and again is a nice treat!
    From Maggie Saxby
    Great blog Lucy. Definitely agree we can be too obsessed about what our children eat. We tried without much success to get our two sons to eat greens and salad and guess what 30 or so years later they are eating nothing else as you probably know! Just hoping they stay healthy after their early junk food years. Love Mx
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