My baby is due in a couple of weeks' time and as a new mum I'm determined to do my best to make sure he or she grows up as healthily as possible. Fruit and vegetables are an essential part of a good diet and I plan to feed my baby pureed carrots and mashed banana as soon as he or she is weaned.
Encouraging youngsters to eat sensibly sets them on the path to good health - the most important thing for any growing child. And that is why I am so pleased to be supporting Cancer Research UK's Pound a Poem competition, which is inviting every primary school pupil in the country to write a poem about a fruit or vegetable for the price of £1. I'm passionate about creative education for young people and this charity both promotes good nutritional information and encourages imagination.
The charity has recently published some interesting research about children's eating habits. More boys than girls, aged four to 16, like fatty and sugary foods, meat, processed meat and eggs. Girls tend to like fruit and vegetables more than boys, especially in their teens when being figure-conscious often relates to diet. But they still don't eat enough for a healthy diet.
Another piece of research suggested that nature decides children's taste for meat and fish but nurture is more influential when it comes to vegetables. After studying the likes and dislikes of young children, researchers found that when vegetables appeared regularly at meals children were more likely to grow up eating them.
Cancer Research UK has also found that more than one quarter of schoolchildren are overweight or obese by the time they reach 11 years old and are heading for a lifetime of potential health problems.
Finding out why children like or dislike certain foods is important to understand the problems of obesity. The more research we can help fund into this the better we can understand what leads to bad eating habits, which contribute to a whole range of problems in later life - including cancer. We also know that about half of all cancers could be prevented by changes to lifestyle and Cancer Research UK's Reduce the Risk campaign highlights five ways to lower your cancer risk, including staying in shape and eating and drinking healthily.
I reckon it's never too early to start pushing that vital message. So I hope schoolchildren in years three to six across the UK will have a crack at Pound a Poem. From 18 September, primary schools across the country will receive a DVD featuring Dick and Dom and Tracy Beaker explaining how to enter the competition. It's a fantastic opportunity to inspire young writing talent and a great opportunity for parents to get involved in school activities.
If every child writes a poem about and sends in the £1 entry fee, it will raise a lot of money for a very good cause. Pound a Poem is supported by The Pears Foundation and - along with Maureen Lipman and Tracy Beaker's creator Jacqueline Wilson - I will be one of the panel judging the 16 national finalists.
So how can the food industry support this initiative? Pound a Poem is offering companies with an interest in healthy eating the chance to get involved. For just £1,000 they can sponsor a vegetable or fruit on the website, which includes a link to their own site - giving children, teachers and parents the chance to see how they are promoting healthy eating. Companies wanting to get involved should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information visit www.poundapoem.co.uk.