• Nicola Revill

Feeding the Next Generation

I’ll admit that although I consider our family to be vegan, our children are only part-time vegans. Provisions at school are limited in their meat free options and expecting my 6 year old to understand if an item contains gelatine, honey or milk is unlikely. I realise that I can’t hang over them 24/7 and advise them on their food choice but I know as they age, their comprehension and understanding about their diet and where their food comes from will grow.

If as a family you decide to reduce your overall meat consumption or indeed have decided to embark on a vegan lifestyle, the idea might be even more daunting if you also have to bear in mind you are trying to think up meals to entice the fussiest member of the family. Bottom line is, feeding children can be a challenge, a huge challenge sometimes. Take it from me, I have two daughters and their eating patterns and fancies switches more times than the wind. One week they will request pizza morning noon and night, then the following week pizza will be the most detestable food of the highest order. Factor in time, nutritional value, taste, texture and smell, the chances of becoming a culinary god in the kitchen is as likely as finding a snowflake in Hell!

Getting the balance right and not cooking different meals to appease different palettes can become tricky. Let’s be honest, no one looks forward to planning a lovely evening meal only to be told it tastes gross!! Kids are especially sensitive to textures and smell and also they have the added complication of less teeth, wobbly teeth or missing teeth, even eating an apple with no front teeth becomes near impossible. It’s a fine balancing act of the right amount of seasoning, spice, texture, smell and colour.

Planning ahead is always my first word of advice, not only because you can have the ingredients in ready but it prevents meal time wobbles when you’re stood in front of a fridge scratching your head trying to figure out what to make.

Getting the kids involved is also sound advice. Simple tasks like peeling carrots or seasoning the potatoes is an easy way to stimulate kid’s interests in food and provides a sense of pride when they can announce the mash was all their own work (even if all they did was add some salt and pepper to the pan)

I enjoy sitting down together at meal time but others will argue that what is more important is what they are eating and not where they are eating it. I believe eating together can encourage positive conversations about the food we eat, getting feedback about what they enjoyed and what they didn’t like, and in my case, I can also keep a close eye on the amount of ketchup my youngest will pile onto her plate!

It will start with a lot of little struggles but once you have that routine going you will save so much time and your children will enjoy the food a great deal more. Not only that, but their interest in food will grow because they will be curious about what you are doing.

The following link is such a helpful source of information for looking for child friendly dinner recipes but I’ve added one of my (and my kids) favourite for you to try

Spaghetti with Sicilian Pesto

· 2 cloves of garlic

· A bunch of fresh basil (use just the leaves and NOT the stalks)

· 60g salted capers (soaked and rinsed)

· 80g blanched almonds

· Half a chilli (optional)

· 500g ripe cherry tomatoes

· Torn pieces of stale bread lightly toasted to make croutons.

· 8 tbsps of very good quality olive oil

Cooking Instructions

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the spaghetti In the meantime, blanch the tomatoes in boiling water until the skin breaks – immediately remove them from the boiling water, and plunge them into cold Remove the skin and cut the tomatoes into quarters. (or to save time, use a good quality tin of tomatoes)In a food processor place the rinsed and dried capers, almonds, garlic, basil and chilli and blitz to a fine paste. To achieve a smooth finish of the pesto add 4 of the 8 tbsps. of oilWhen the pasta is cooked, in a large pan place the diced tomatoes, the pesto and warm through at low heat, add the pasta, stir well and (to add some crunchiness) sprinkle over some lightly toasted bread croutons.Serve immediately. Wonderful!

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