Sunday 2 May 2010

Grow Your Own with Notcutts Garden Centre

We are all aware of Jamie Oliver's campaign to get children growing and eating more vegetables. Over the last couple of years there have been many attempts to raise children's awareness of where food comes from in order to try and help them and their parents choose healthier food options. Growing your own vegetables has proven to be one of the most popular and most successful methods of getting children involved in the food preparation process and more importantly in eating a variety of fresh vegetables they might never have tried otherwise. Growing our own fruit and vegetables has certainly encouraged our Little Garden Helpers to eat things they would not have done otherwise, so when I hear about activities taking place that encourage more people to do the same I am more than happy to pass the details on and this time it is the turn of Notcutts Garden Centre.

This summer Notcutts Garden Centre, having carried out a national survey which revealed that 61% of parents don't grow any fruit or vegetables at home with their children, are trying to get more and more parents growing their own produce as an extra curricular activity. They are calling for parents to go into their garden centres with their children and receive tips on how to grow vegetables, regardless of whether they have a garden or not. They are also offering the chance to try some new recipes they have put together which are made from the least favourite fruits and vegetables in an attempt to get children eating more if them. Recipe cards include Plum Chutney, Bubble and Squeak, Sticky Pear Pudding and Celery and Celeriac Soup. So if you are looking for something to do this wet bank holiday weekend, or over the next few weeks, why not drop into your local Notcutts and pick the brains of the garden experts in store. I know from experience that the staff at my local centre are friendly and eager to help.

And in the meantime here are some tips from Lucy Thomas (healthy eating expert and founder of Mange Tout) to get children eating more fruit and veg:

1. Children don’t like surprises either

How many times have we seen an unusual looking food and decided not to try it as we were not sure what it was?  Allow your child to touch the produce in supermarkets, ask questions and point out their favourite colour. Choose something new to take home and look at.

2. Involve children in the whole process

Let them help as much as you can with preparing the food. Yes, it might get messy but this can be a small price to pay when it will help your child take away some of the uncertainly which might be associated with the particular fruit or vegetable.

3. Avoid the words ‘Eat’ and ‘Try’

The meal table is one of the only areas in a child’s life where they can assert some power or control over their parent; by refusing to do something they are being asked to do!  Use unique methods like smelling, licking, kissing food as a way around this. And yes, you must lead by example!

4. Sharing mealtimes

It is very easy to think of mealtimes as an opportunity to “get a few things done” whilst your child is pre occupied with food. However more often than not your child is far more distracted by you emptying the
dishwasher, answering the phone or hanging out the washing than being interested in what’s on their plate.

5. Your preferences

Children are great imitators, so will more often than not grow up sharing some of your likes/dislikes. Try and give your children the opportunity to try some different fruit and vegetables that don’t normally appear in your house. It may mean you have to grimace your way through a few Brussel Sprouts, but remember children will not yet know if they like them yet or not! They will only have the opportunity to enjoy them if they do not hear your negative inference in relation to them.

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