Five a day: part 3, fun for kids

My little food loving Princess!

My kids are opposites when it comes to their stance on fruit and vegetables. Prince, as I mentioned in part one, has issues with the texture of almost all raw options, and most of his life has strongly disliked them. Princess, on the other hand, seemed to be born with a passionate love for all food! Her first real food after breast milk was a strawberry, which she gummed to death, holding my hand (which was holding the strawberry) as tight as she could with her little fists to keep me from taking it away! Her intense love of strawberries still holds strong today, but she also loves to eat just about any fruit and most vegetables on offer.

I have to admit, I was quite relieved when Princess came along loving these healthy foods! I did nothing different with her – they are just naturally different. My prince has mild autistic traits, and texture issues are known to be prominent in this spectrum. It is because of this that I have taken a very gentle approach to getting Prince to eat these raw foods.

My success so far is limited, yet hugely significant. Prince, who is nearly six, loved his fruit as a baby. In fact, his first birthday ‘cake’ was actually a fruit salad instead of cake. But only a few month later he started refusing to eat certain fruits until I was left with just one I could get him to eat – bananas. He even went through a period refusing these, but I managed to successfully reintroduce them to him when he was four. Apart from banana he has not eaten any other raw fruit or vegetable in nearly five years. Until now. Now Prince also eats sugar-snap peas, apples, carrots, bean sprouts, cucumber, green beans and baby corn – all raw!

This is more than I had imagined was possible 6 months ago, and we are still in the processes of expanding his range. Here are some things I have done which have helped my Prince to do so well. You may find some of them useful if you have kids who don’t like their fruit and veggies.

  • Be patient.  Understanding that Prince has a real issue with texture, and that he wasn’t just being fussy or defiant has helped me to be patient with him. I think this has been one of the most important steps we have taken, though it can be one of the hardest. I have had to be patient for nearly five years, waiting until he was mature enough to take on the task of facing such a challenge to his senses.
  • Know your child.  I know Prince very well. I know what he struggles with (in this case, texture and discipline), and what motivates him (encouragement, imagination, achievements). When you can identify these things, you can work out a plan which plays to their motivations and overcome their struggles.
  • Put the two together.  When you have been patient and discern that your child is ready, then put your plan into action! My plan was to use a chart. Charts work very well for Prince, and ever since Princess started working on a ‘no accidents’ toilet chart he has been asking for one. The timing was perfect – he was highly motivated by finally having a chart of his own, with prizes to work towards.
  • Explain the ‘why’.  The classic children’s question! Prince is in a real ‘why’ phase, so it is both important and interesting to him when I explain why he needs to work on eating raw fruit and vegetables. We talk about vitamins, health, illness, etc.
  • Be firm but gentle.  The first few times he tries any new food is particularly hard for Prince. I have to insist he eat it, and usually have to feed it to him. I have to keep enforcing the next bite. But I also keep it very matter-of-fact, to help him not become over emotional about it.  I am careful not to raise my voice, and not to tell him off or get angry. It’s important to keep in mind how difficult this is for your child.
  • Make it fun!

    Make it fun.  Sometimes I encourage Prince to imagine that his chewing is ‘choo-chooing’, and that he is going on a journey somewhere exciting. This distracts him from the tastes and textures in his mouth, as he thinks up new places for each bite. Sometimes I arrange his food in fun shapes. The other day I made an ‘alien’ face with different vegetables for the eyes, ears, mouth, hair etc.

  • Pray.  God cares about every detail of our lives, and this is no exception. Pray for your child to have the strength and discipline to be able to take on this challenge and succeed.
  • Encourage their success.  Praise is sweet to the ears of a child. Make sure you acknowledge their hard work and achievements, even if they have only managed a little. This is sure to encourage them to keep working hard and trying their best, and to have a positive outlook.

I want to leave you with something Prince said to me a couple of weeks ago, as he was working on eating cucumber.

“Mommy? When I’m finished my chart I am going to LOVE fruit and vegetables!  And I am going to say, ‘Mommy, please can I have some strawberries, please can I have some carrots, please can I have some grapes, please can I have some blueberries!'”

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Five a day: part 1, my experience

Five a day is a slogan I’ve heard since I was a kid. It refers to the recommendation that each person eats at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. I’ve never been terribly good at this, for a variety of reasons: creating a meal full of veggies can be time-consuming with all the cutting required; although I’m not a fruit hater, there are few I enjoy just picking up and eating by themselves; my first child, Prince, has a strong aversion to the texture of most fruit and veggies; fruit and vegetables tend to be expensive. But more than any of those reasons, I lacked a strong enough motivation.

Recently my mother-in-law started talking to me about the immense health benefits of eating raw, living foods. My interest sparked, and I decided to look into it a bit for myself. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time for research, so I can’t provide you with a 100% accurate and detailed report of my findings. However there were two things that came up in my limited research which I will share:

  • When you cook fruit and vegetables you can lose a large percentage of their nutrients (note that sometimes certain nutrients are enhanced by cooking)
  • Fruit is easily, quickly and effectively digested when eaten in isolation from other categories of food (e.g. fats).  Their benefits can be compromised if eaten alongside other food.

Armed with inspiration and motivation, I decided to make an effort to improve the diet of my family. I haven’t made any drastic changes, as I would need to do a lot more detailed research before doing anything major. Still, we have made some changes, and overall I am much happier with our diet now. Here are some of the simple things we do to take advantage of the things I learned:

There are many exciting ways to get your ‘five a day’!

  • I start the day with a hot honey and lemon drink every morning, before eating anything else.  This was not directly inspired by my recent research, but by stuff I had read a long time ago. I find this to be a deliciously refreshing way to start each day, and it (in theory!) is a good detox drink.
  • I try to eat mainly raw fruit or veggies until lunch time. When I’m hungry (usually 1/2 hour to an hour after my drink) I mix up a homemade ‘green’ smoothie for breakfast. They are called green because I add in celery and some green leafy veg like spinach, rocket or Romaine lettuce. I also put in frozen berries, banana, kiwi, apple and water.
  • The kids mostly have a fruit breakfast (Princess likes whole fruits, Prince shares my smoothie). If they are hungry I will give them bread, cereal or porridge after that.
  • Lunch is mostly veg based, though I often have fish too (tinned mackerel, sardines or tuna). I usually give the kids some raw veg  like carrots, cucumber, green beans etc., followed by bread or nuts or something similar if they are still hungry (depending on how hungry they are I try to space out the veg from the bread by about 1/2 hour)
  • I keep nuts and seeds in bowls around the house to snack on, as a healthy source of protein and fat. We also snack on rice cakes, popcorn (not the mircowave bag type, but rather fresh kernels popped on the stove and mixed with some coconut or olive oil), fruit or veg.
  • I make the last meal of the day a cooked one. This varies, but some of the meals we have more regularly are eggs, pasta (wholemeal) and fish.

This list is not a set of strict rules. There are times when I skip my honey and lemon drink, or have toast for breakfast. Rather, this is a general trend, and the way that we eat most of the time. Whilst it may sound silly, I really have found that I feel much healthier after having kept this up for the last month!

The most noticeable difference for me has been that I have a lot more energy. I have always found myself lacking in energy, and needing a minimum of 10 hours of sleep at night to feel even vaguely alert during the day (and I preferred 12 hours if I could get it). I was someone who would be always yawning – many times a day, and even when I didn’t feel tired. But over the last week I have noticed that I don’t yawn much at all now. I have been getting up earlier, too. Instead of forcing myself out of bed at 8:30 or 9am, I am getting up at 7 or 7:30am easily – and this on top of going to bed at the same time or later than before! Whereas I used to be constantly tired, the past 3 days I have not felt tired at all during the day.  This is a major change for me, and a wonderful benefit of this new lifestyle diet.

As you can see, I have no precise science behind my new love for the ‘five a day’ slogan.  I don’t even count my fruit and veg portions!  But I have found that eating this way is a really great thing.  Tomorrow, I will share some advice on the costs of eating like this, and ways to make it economical.

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