I founded Ella’s Kitchen in 2006, with the simple aim of helping babies and young children eat healthily. I began this journey by creating foods for kids that would be healthy, handy and fun, and importantly so that our brand could help improve children’s lives through developing healthy relationships with food.
One in five children are now classed as either overweight or obese by the time they start primary school. To turn this around, we need to focus our attention on the eating habits of the under-fives and look at the very start of when babies start to explore food – as this is where relationships with food, both good and bad, are formed.
Weaning is a key time for babies to develop their taste palate and food preferences. During this time, they’re more accepting of new foods and can quickly learn to like them.
Evidence shows that a ‘vegetables first’ approach to weaning can help babies learn to like vegetables, which may help to prevent ‘fussiness’ around these foods as they get older, ensuring little ones receive the valuable nutrients they provide.
However, only 36% of UK parents currently wean predominantly with vegetables during the first two weeks. We want to raise awareness of the evidence that suggests a ‘vegetables first’, ‘vegetables frequently’ and ‘vegetables in variety’ approach to weaning is intrinsically linked to a long-term preference for vegetables.
This is why we have launched ‘Veg for Victory’ – a campaign to raise awareness of the importance of vegetables throughout weaning and the impact this could have on little ones’ long-term health.
As part of the campaign we published Ella’s Kitchen Greener Paper just a few weeks after the Governments long-awaited Childhood Obesity Plan. We welcome any efforts to improve children’s health. However, we were disappointed that the Plan doesn’t include anything around the vital early years’ period, as our research has revealed that this is a crucial time for influencing children’s long-term health. We therefore consider our Greener Paper timely, as a complementary touchpoint of evidence based policy and action recommendations to add to our national debate.
As a first step, we are calling on Public Health England to enhance existing weaning guidelines to reflect this latest evidence around the importance of vegetables throughout weaning, by promoting a vegetables first, frequently and in variety approach.
We’re incredibly excited to have the support of Jamie’s Food Revolution, whose values of putting kids first and ensuring each and every little one has the best possible start in life, is in-line with our mission. As outlined by the Food Revolution, without proper nutrition, children are at risk of becoming either overweight or obese, or suffering from malnutrition, which impacts their health, growth and development and puts them at increased risk of disease.
We know there is no easy answer to addressing the issues surrounding early childhood nutrition, and for sustainable change to occur, we need a long-term co-ordinated strategy that crucially does not ignore the early years. We’re therefore asking everyone from brands, to Government and health decision makers, to mums and dads, to raise awareness of the importance of vegetables in weaning and help little ones develop a healthy relationship with food from the very first taste.
I’m asking you to join in our campaign and show your support tweeting #VegforVictory.
Be inspired and watch Ella’s Kitchen teeny tiny spokesman Sir Weanston Churchill inspire the nation all about the importance of vegetables in weaning.