Hi I'm Susan, an active runner from Glasgow. My wife and I are both training for half marathons and enjoy regular Parkruns too but as new parents, we’re keen to introduce our baby to the healthiest foods possible (which also taste good), so we signed up as watercress ambassadors.
We successfully experimented for a week with watercress which you can read about in Episode 1 but then went away on holiday.
The report on how we have picked up our watercress diet again follows but first check out the advice from expert Annabel Karmel on how to encourage children to eat their five a day.
7 tips from Annabel Karmel to help kids eat healthily:
1. Try making your own healthy junk food - Use good quality lean meat for burgers, English muffins for pizza bases and a good way to coat homemade fish fingers is to dip them in seasoned flour, beaten egg and crushed cornflakes. For dessert it's easy to make fresh fruit ice lollies from fruit juice and pureed fruits.
2. Be upfront - Some kids can spot a hidden mushroom a mile off, so sometimes the best thing is to be up front about fruit and vegetables, tell them where they come from and why they are so good for you. Giving them facts could make them more interested about what they are eating. I used to offer a starter - a little teacup or saucer of something new that they could try that would be in addition to their main meal.
3. Don’t worry - If your child refuses to eat anything other than junk food, don't worry. They will soon find there's not much point making a fuss if you don't react.
4. Make food look good - Without going to unnecessary lengths, try to make sure your child's food not only tastes good but looks good too. Make mini portions in ramekins, make chicken skewers or thread bite sized pieces of fruit onto a straw.
5. Avoid empty calorie snacks - Don’t offer snacks like crisps or soft drinks but keep a supply of healthy snacks on hand – maybe have a low shelf in the fridge with cut up fresh fruit and other healthy foods. When children are hungry, they won't wait.
6. Children like to assemble their own food - try laying ingredients out in bowls and let your child fill and fold their own wraps or choose their favourite toppings for their home made pizzas.
7. Get them involved - Most children adore cooking and tasks like squeezing fresh orange juice or cracking eggs are well within the capabilities of a young child. It's amazing how being involved in the planning and preparation of a meal can stimulate a child's appetite.
Episode 2 of our Watercress Adventure
Having spent the last few weeks in France, we've sampled our fair share of exotic food. From a buffet with oysters, sushi and deep fried frogs legs to eating in a little deli serving Portuguese rolls stuffed with octopus, we ate exceptionally well. But after three weeks of meat-heavy meals and an unquantifiable number of pain aux chocolats in between, we realised we needed a bit of a detox.
The three parkruns that we managed to complete on our tour didn’t put much of a dent in the extra calories we were consuming and it didn't help that the wee one got a vomiting bug for two weeks while we were away. So I was desperate for her and us to get back to healthy eating and some much needed vitamins.
We arrived home literally craving our next delivery of watercress or le cresson as the French would say.
Week 2, Day 1
After so many heavy meals, I wanted nothing more than a big bowl of vegetable soup so I looked to Delia for inspiration.
Her watercress and potato soup sounded just the trick so I bought a sack of potatoes and got to work. And by work I mean watching the pot boil. I’m a firm believer in keeping the skin on potatoes as it’s where the nutrients are so I don’t peel unless I really have to.
Also for me it was important to find a soup that doesn't rely on stock cubes for flavour to avoid the wee one getting too much salt so I left out the bouillon powder and added a heap of garlic cloves instead.
I softened some onion and the garlic in a little splash of olive oil, and added a load of watercress. At the same time I made a big pot of skin-on mashed potatoes. Then I mixed some of the mash with the onions and garlic, squeezed in half a lemon then added water without stock. I left out the milk until it was time to reheat.
There are countless variations on watercress soup on any recipe site, but if you’re short on time, try this quick and easy watercress soup by The Watercress Company’s own development chef, Keri Astill-Frew.
With the rest of the mashed potatoes, I decided to make salmon watercress fishcakes. I found a recipe on Runners World which baked the fishcakes in the oven rather than frying them.
The recipe called for tinned salmon. I saved the water from this and added it to the soup in place of stock which gave it the flavour it was needing.
Now, I had learned from my previous experimentation that if it’s not chopped up, the watercress will twist up into a clump so I needed to cut it up small. But rather than risk a finger with a knife, I grabbed my kitchen scissors and made short work of the bunch.
I served them with a watercress and beetroot salad dressed in a squeezed orange, mustard and olive oil dressing and, rather than making the watercress mayo called for in the recipe, I cheated and used some shop bought sweet chili sauce.
Week 2, Day 2
After my batch cooking I should have had enough food for the week. However, I hadn’t bargained on my parents and the in-laws helping themselves to generous portions of soup and fishcakes. But the feedback was so positive I decided to make the soup again.
It’s unusual for me to make the same thing twice so this time I added half a bag of spinach to use it up. It was missing the omega 3 rich salmon water so after I had scooped enough out to feed the wee one, I crumbled in half a ham stock cube.
The result was a clean bowl but messy, floor mouth and hands. Turns out the wee one is a big fan of the colour green. But she did seem to like the taste of the soup. She was more fussy about the fishcakes but they were the right squidgy consistency to warrant being squeezed to within an inch of their lives. I froze a couple of leftovers so she’ll get to taste them again when she’s in a less destructive mood.
Week 2, Day 3
Still craving salad, the lunch time sandwiches recieved the watercress treatment and I whisked up some egg mayo for the wife’s packed lunch which got a generous helping of watercress and much co-worker envy.
It was nice to be able to cook again after three weeks away and to know that I was in control of the amount of (albeit healthy) oil I was using.
So the family is back on the healthy eating wagon again and the watercress is definitely helping on that journey as looking for good recipes forces you to think of what you are putting in your body. And nothing’s better than watercress!