You’ll probably recognise JB Gill as being part of boyband JLS, but when he’s not getting ready for the band’s upcoming comeback tour, the dad of 2 also runs a successful farm. As a result, he is passionate about teaching kids about the origins of their food. He is working with children’s food brand Organix, Silver Award winners in the 2021 MadeForMums awards, on a new healthy eating campaign ‘Good for planet. Good for me’. The campaign incorporates songs, games, recipes, and indoor and outdoor activities to help encourage pre-schoolers to eat a wider range of fruit and vegetables.
JB recently spoke to MadeForMums to share his top tips for encouraging healthy eating habits with pre-schoolers. These are techniques he has been using day-to-day with his own kids – Ace, 6 and Chiara, 2 – to help them try a whole range of new foods.
Eat your way through the rainbow
“Both of my children are very different – Ace was always a very good eater whereas Chiara, on the other hand, is very fussy,” explains JB. Alongside Organix and 300,000 pre-schoolers from the National Day Nurseries Association, JB has created the ‘Rainbow Explorer’ activity pack, designed to build a positive relationship with food. It’s something he’s particularly excited about for Chiara.
“I really want her to take good eating habits forward into her adult life, so along with all the activities she’s going to be doing with the pack, she’s going to be eating her way through the rainbow, starting with red and yellow and finishing with purple and blue. That should be really fun for her and there are lots of songs and activities for her to be involved in.”
Making mealtimes fun by introducing games and challenges can really help to engage children who are more cautious eaters. Plus, eating a rainbow of foods ensures they get lots of different vitamins and nutrients.
Teach children where food comes from
JB also believes it’s important to teach children where their food comes from and to involve them when shopping for it. “As often as I can I’ll take Ace and Chiara shopping with me and we’ll talk about food we’re picking up, whether that’s fruit, veg, meat, or any other type of food.
“One of my longest-standing memories is of going down to Brixton market as a kid where it was a hub for food and produce from all over the world. I used to go every weekend with my mum and we used to pick up all sorts of food. We’d come back on the Saturday and we’d be cooking food for the week because both my parents worked and it was a busy household. Those are things that have had a long-standing effect on me and I try to implement them now.
“We’re also in a unique position where we have a farm and the kids can come out with me to collect the eggs and see the animals. But not everyone has got access to that, so even smaller things like growing herbs on the windowsill really add to the whole process.”
Involve children in cooking and preparation
“One of the things I try to do is involve them in the cooking process. Even if they’re not particularly keen on eating it, it’s a great way for you to break the ice. If your child doesn’t know what the food in front of them is, the likelihood is they’re not going to have that much confidence eating it.
“Talking through the process and getting them to sample food helps. Even something as simple as when I’m making pasta, I always give them a piece to ask if it’s cooked yet. Little things like that help them to develop a relationship with their food and ultimately that’s what you want. Tastes will change but as long as that love for food and desire to interact with it is there, I think that’s a great foundation.”
Set a positive example
“One tip I’ve always used is that there are often times, especially when the kids were younger, where I’d literally just do a plate for myself and I’d add extra. Nine times out of ten they’re running up to you and asking what you’ve got, so I’d let the kids eat from my plate as well. Whereas if I put the exact same thing on their own plate, then it’s played with and left.
“It also goes hand in hand with the issues we’re facing globally when it comes to sustainability and food waste. We hardly ever wasted food when I was younger and even now if we have vegetable peels, that goes to the pig, or we give our bones to the dog. We make sure we utilise as much as possible, and I think that’s really important. We want to be part of the change and I think it’s important to do what you can when you can in the comfort of your own home.”
For more information about the ‘Good for Planet. Good for Me’ campaign go to: organix.com/goodforme