How I taught my children to love vegetables and regained my love of mealtimes

I had an epiphany this week.

Both children couldn’t get enough mushrooms, carrots and broccoli and announced that the loved lentils.

Tears just flooded my eyes as it has felt like an ongoing battle.

Me against health visitors who told them to eat more cake as they were both too small. Me against supermarkets and their ‘children’s meals’. I hated it. I wanted dinner times to be enjoyable but felt completely torn. Why wasn’t I being supported in my quest for nutrition for my children?

Before children, we both loved food and mealtimes. A sensory, culinary celebration. Post children this had tuned into me wolfing my food down in desperation exasperated that my home cooked food was shunned with ‘yuck!’

The best excuse for not eating veg was that at Bob and Roger’s house (imaginary friends) they tasted them and didn’t like them. I was stuck and dreaded meals.

I’ve always grown my own herbs and salads as I remember being sent into the garden as a child for chives and mint. I started to do the same with my two although I was heartbroken when my little scissor enthusiast went for the snowdrops as well as the rosemary yesterday.

I never wanted food to be a reward or a punishment but just nourishment and a symbol of togetherness.

However, I spent most of my time insisting on ‘two bum cheeks’ on a chair and begging the ingestion of each vegetable. It felt rubbish and really wasn’t where I thought I would be. I spent the first year breast feeding followed by baby led weaning.

Initially I was insistent that we would only feed them what we ate but ‘children’s meals’ are a thing. I was worried because I know that food habits for life are largely formed by age five and according to the health visitor’s ruler they were both underweight.

I felt completely disempowered as I was aiming for nutrition and habit forming. I stopped weighing them and started educating them. I taught food groups, vitamins, talking to your tummy and ‘feeling full’. It was hard. Children’s lunch bags at Sainsbury’s became a thing and sweet aisles, school, preschool no judgement, it just is what it is.

However, I persisted.

Last year in the garden we grew potatoes and beans, chives and a few minuscule carrots.

I taught them about vitamins, food groups, digestion, taste

Many times the vegetables were removed from the plate but I stayed calm this time. I was on a mission.

“Hey look at this crazy carrot with three legs”

Gone in a flash!

I read and read. Food needs to be seasonal and varied for good gut bacteria. Eating seasonally and organically as much as possible was the way to go so I supplemented the garden produce with the local ‘veg man’

I removed all snacks for a while as well as deserts. Deserts were becoming the end game and I wanted to focus on the good stuff.

I started cooking with my children. Chopping veg, tasting, planning menus together.

There isn’t a magic wand and that’s not how it worked. I was stubborn but I like to think that is the way I love my children. I love them with stubbornness. I would knock walls down for them and for me that meant fostering a love of good food.

If they say they don’t like something now I just tell them I tried it a hundred times and after 99….. it was yummy.

If I learnt anything it was not to be so hard on myself or them. They are learning. I give out ‘vegetable kisses’ for eating lots.

Now we tell stories at mealtimes. I know this is temporary. They will be young once. It important for me to do this bit right. I taught them to love their vegetables, hopefully a lifelong love of trying things and experimenting, cooking and gardening.

I have planted my love of food inside them and it feels good ❤️

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Clinical Aromatherapist Angelic Reiki Master Shamanic Practitioner Children’s Yoga Teacher Guided Meditation Author Flamenco Dancer Lover of trees, nature and the juiciness of all things

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