Superfoods Make Super Kids: The benefits of growing your own organic produce

Ask any nutritionist what the best foods to feed your kids are and they will say superfoods. These are foods high in protein and nutrients that have some incredible health benefits, such as helping their growth and preventing digestive problems, among many other things.

olivetoms
Olive picking home grown tomatoes

There’s no denying that a superfood-based diet is what’s best for your kids (and your health as well, obvz), but the problem is, high-quality superfoods don’t come cheap. When you’re a parent, you know that every penny counts, which can make feeding your kids high-quality foods a little tricky. After all, money doesn’t grow on trees, does it?

The good news is that even if money is somewhat tight (or even if it isn’t), there’s a simple way that you can make it easier to fill yours’ and your kids’ plates with lots of lovely superfoods, and that is by growing them yourself. Believe it or not, growing your own produce is much easier than you would think and is a great way to cut food costs and still eat healthy, superfood packed diet.

Where to start

Still not sure about growing your own produce? Are you worried that it may be a time consuming, high effort task that produces very little? You can grow many easy superfoods in your own back garden, on a patio or even a balcony from your little flat. As my nan used to say “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

It’s an enjoyable hobby that the whole family can get involved with. Go shopping for some cheap pots and tubs. Places such as Poundland sell some fab tubs suitable for veg growing. Or keep your eyes peeled on sites such as Gumtree or Freecycle. Dad could have a go at building some easy raised beds, and the kids can have fun sowing seeds and watering their new plants.

tomato seedling

Thanks to smart technology, a lot of kids aren’t getting enough time outside. However, if you choose to create an allotment in your own back (or front!) garden, you can encourage them to spend more time outside. Kids love growing things, especially when they can eat the end result, which is why an allotment or smaller vegetable patch is guaranteed to get the little ones outside more. I hate seeing children on iPads (you can read more on that here) when there is a huge fascinating world to explore outside. Children struggle to understand where food comes from in the 21st century, when everything they eat can be found on the supermarket shelves.

morrisons fruit and veg

A lot of families struggle to find a hobby that they can enjoy together, which is why growing your own produce as a family could be a good idea. You and your little ones can team up to grow lots of delicious fruits and vegetables, building your bond and making memories that will last a lifetime. Honestly, growing produce with your kids can be a right laugh and a lot of fun. I let my 2 year old sow some Spring Onions by herself a few weeks ago. I didn’t know where she had planted them, until yesterday I spotted them sprouting under my rose bushes. Errrrrm. But she had fun, so what?!

Obviously, if you have never grown your own food before, you will need some allotment advice and to learn about the best times to plant different seeds, as well as what it takes for them to grow into healthy food-producing plants. It’s important to realise that learning can be fun, especially when you learn as a family. Start watching Gardener’s World on a Friday night (BBC1), together as a family. A lovely TV show, and I guarantee that you will all learn something new each week.

Save (a lot of) money

Above, we mentioned that growing your own produce can save you money, but a lot of people don’t realise how much money. The markup on organic fruit and vegetables (and meat too) is crazy. In fact, the markup on all food is mental.

Outside there was a veggie patch to explore.
wonderful veg patch at Gardener’s World Live 2016

As an example, a bag of organic carrots from a supermarket costs around £1 for a bag of ten carrots. That equates to 10p a carrot. You can buy a packet of 800 carrot seeds for around £2, which means that even if just half of these seeds turn into carrots, you will be making a huge saving. On average, with the cost of fertiliser included, organic fertiliser obviously, each carrot would cost less than a penny to grow, and that’s if only half of the seeds were successful. If they were all successful, each carrot would cost less than half a penny to grow. That means that the markup on supermarket carrots is around ten times the price it costs to grow them, maybe more.

Just think of how much money you would save by growing your own produce. The start-up cost of making space growable in doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg either. If you own a spade, simply dig out where you want to grow your food and off you go. Don’t waste money on weedkillers (eliminates the organic aspect too), and you’ll get a better job done by weeding with your own hands. And it’s very therapeutic too.

Your food will taste better

There’s a good reason why so many of the best chefs insist on only using organic ingredients in their cooking, that’s because they taste better. Not only are organic fruits and vegetables packed full of more vitamins and nutrients and better for you and your little ones because of it, they also taste better and have more flavour, or at least, according to the world’s top chefs they do. I agree with the chefs.

bbc gardeners world live

Of course, the reason that organic food tastes better is because of a range of factors. From well cared for soil that gets all the nourishment it needs from organic, natural fertilisers to not being grown under a grow light to help speed up growth. Organic food has the time to mature at its own rate, which helps to add flavour.

I also firmly believe that when you have sown a seed, cared for it, watched it grow and harvested the food yourself, you can taste your own hard work. And it tastes bloody amazing.

Your kids will be more willing to eat their greens

Then there’s the fact that if your little ones have helped to grow their greens, they will be more willing to eat them. A lot of kids are fussy when it comes to what they will and won’t eat, especially when it comes to healthy foods, but usually, if they’ve grown it themselves they are much happier to eat it. After all, what kid would miss out on tasting their handy work? They helped grow it, so they are going to want to eat it.

More and more parents are turning to growing their own food to encourage their kids to eat their greens and be healthier in general. As well as fruits and vegetables, a lot of parents are also starting to produce other foods themselves, such as free range eggs, to encourage their kids to eat a healthier diet. Often, if a child has helped grow the carrots, collected the eggs and taken care of the chickens, or seen the honey being collected, they are more open to trying it. We would never be without our hens now, and the kids love collecting their eggs daily!

Protect yourselves from pesticides

There is no doubt about it; pesticides are bad for our health. Study after study has linked them to all sorts of problems, from behavioural problems in kids to conditions like allergies and cancers. A lot of people don’t realise it but the majority of pesticides were registered for use before research into their link to cancer was performed, and many of which were shown to be carcinogenic.

The only way you can control what does and doesn’t go into your food is if you grow it yourself, which is why so many people are opting to grow their own fruits and vegetables. Growing organic food isn’t just about the pesticides but also about the soil and fertilisers used. There’s a lot more to it than meets the eye, that being said once you have got to grips with what’s involved, it’s fairly easy to grow organic food.

By growing most of your food yourself and buying the rest from local suppliers, you can ensure that you have fewer chemicals on your plate at mealtimes.

Have a go at making your own compost too. 4 pallets knocked together makes a fab compost bin, any food scraps/peelings, paper and cardboard, egg shells, chicken manure, garden waste such as grass cuttings can all be added and after a few months you shall be rewarded with  beautiful home made compost. Just leave out meat scraps, animal poop from carnivores, fire ash, dairy and fats.

You can sell any extra

If you are wondering what you can do with any surplus produce that you have left over, you can sell it. A lot of people who grow their own produce put a table outside their homes with an honesty box where they can sell any extra bits and bobs. This is a great way to make sure that nothing goes to waste and to earn a little extra money at the same time. Our chickens often produce more eggs than we can eat or bake with, so my hubby takes them into work for his colleagues.

Why not swap food? I created a Facebook page where our local townsfolk can swap an item for something else. One regular user swaps spare chicken and duck eggs for frozen veg as a treat for his chickens. If I get any gluts from our allotment, I shall swap it for items that I use lost of such as flour or sugar.

As well as selling your produce in its raw form, you could also opt to turn it into preserves like chutneys and jams. Organic, local chutneys and jams tend to sell well, so this could be a nice way to make a little extra money from your vegetable patch. Or, how about making wine with some of your leftover fruit? Homemade wine can be made with a range of fruits and tastes delicious, plus it can make a great hobby and will certainly save you a few bob too.

My homemade rhubarb jam, on warm toast.
My homemade rhubarb jam, on warm toast.

The fact is that as the experts say, superfoods make super kids. There’s no getting away from the fact that kids who eat plenty of superfoods are much healthier and much less prone to illness, which is why it’s so important to make eating organic superfoods more affordable by growing them yourself. Teach your kids a wonderful lesson in life and teach them to be healthy, and happiness shall follow. Step away from the chicken nuggets!

Author: Hazel Newhouse

Hazel is a mum to 3 young daughters, she lives in Bedfordshire with her husband, kids and pets. Hazel has written for various publications, and regularly works alongside popular parenting brands.

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