This year we have included some articles on the benefits of gardening with children, growing for health and wellbeing and most recently on the benefits of having an allotment associated with your nursery. This month, with the harvest completed and the nights drawing in, we focus on eating the things you have grown, and The National Veg Pledge is the perfect way to help seal the deal and get children interested in better nutrition. Our article last month about Malnutrition Awareness Week highlighted the poor state of nutrition that some people live with in our country, so there’s never been a better time to up your intake of veggies and put some fortified food back on your fork!

What is The National Veg Pledge? What is The National Veg Pledge? 

The National Veg Pledge is a Food Foundation initiative designed to increase the amount of vegetables in our diet. The Food Foundation is a registered charity which works in partnership with researchers, campaigners, community bodies, industry, governments and individuals. Their focus and vision is on creating a sustainable food system which delivers health and wellbeing for all and they aim to do this by influencing and changing food policy, business practice and individual behaviour to ensure everyone has access to a healthy diet. 

Research by the Food Foundation has identified a number of food system challenges and barriers to healthy eating which it is trying to address, including the following:

  • The cost of healthy food – on average, three times more expensive than unhealthy foods
  • Food waste – families throwing away the equivalent of 6 meals per week
  • Highly processed foods make up over half the diet of typical families but can be damaging to health
  • Unregulated advertising of foods high in fat, sugar and/or salt
  • Many eating out establishments still serve unhealthy meals

The list of organisations who have pledged to work to increase vegetable consumption is long and is growing. It includes major supermarkets, restaurants, educational food suppliers, TV companies, food producers and trade unions to name but a few and there are a number of projects that the Food Foundation runs in order to achieve its goals. 

Peas Please

This is one of the foundation’s most well-known projects which aims to bring together stakeholders in the food chain with the common goal of making it easier for everyone to eat more veg. Their website includes toolkits for retailers, restaurants and food outlets to help them achieve their goals; information and frameworks to help organisations make a pledge and support the initiative; and they also organise various events and publications throughout the year. 

Veg Power

The Veg Power website is a ‘must see’ for anyone involved with feeding children. Veg Power is an initiative which grew out of the Peas Please campaign and it acknowledges that 80% of children are not eating enough vegetables. Even worse, 50% of parents say they have given up trying to get their children to eat their 5-a-day, so Veg Power is on a mission “to inspire kids from early years through primary school and into their teens to veggie loving habits they will keep for life and in turn, share with their children.”

So the challenge is on to get each child in the UK to eat at least one more portion of fruit and vegetables a day. 

The website is full of resources to help you. You will find “Eat them to defeat them” books, videos, posters, charts, colouring activities and more recipes than you can shake a stick, sorry, carrot at! And they are all very children-friendly and appealing to young minds. 

Some of our favourite recipes include:

  • Zombie peppers
  • Corn frizzlers
  • Mean ‘n’ green mac ‘n’ cheese
  • Googly-eyed tomatoes

What can you do in your setting to help?

Here are some ideas to help you to get the children in your setting eating more veg:

  1. Keep raw vegetables handy – chop them up at the start of the day and keep them on hand for snacks. Good veg to use are carrots, celery, and tomatoes, but you can be more adventurous too and use mushrooms, baby sweetcorn, sugar snap peas and mange tout. And if they don’t get eaten, then you can cook them and add them to your next meal or make them into a soup or add to a veggie smoothie. 
  2. Use veggies as a quick starter to a meal when children are hungry and likely to eat them. You can make a healthy dip such as a yoghurt and cucumber Tzatziki which is quick and healthy too. Other options include things like hummus, sour cream, guacamole or soft cheese. 
  3. Make your own pizzas – children love this because it’s quick and easy and they can add the toppings of their choice which can include lots of vegetables such as corn, peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and you can also use frozen peas too. If you don’t want to make your own bases, you can use a soft tortilla wrap, muffin or pitta bread for a quick and delicious lunch. 
  4. Add some veggies to a fruit salad to make a fruit and veg salad or fruit and veg kebab. Some naturally-sweet things like baby tomatoes, baby corn, sweetcorn, peas, and sugar snap peas make good options. Remember to cut tomatoes in half to help prevent a choking hazard for under 5s.
  5. Hide veggies in sauces, soups and smoothies by cooking and liquidising them first.
  6. Add a portion of vegetables to your favourite sandwiches and encourage the parents of the children to do the same. Here are some tasty ways to easily knock up some healthier sandwiches:
    a. Add cucumber and lettuce leaves to cheese 
    b. Add tomatoes to ham
    c. Add spinach and cress to egg
    d. Add onion or sweetcorn to tuna
    e. Think about some veggie-only sandwiches too including tomato and grated carrot, beetroot and cucumber and hummus and peppers.

Whatever you do, NEVER GIVE UP! Children need to eat a balanced and nutritious diet to maintain their physical and mental health so keep trying and notice the difference.

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