Christine Ayre's four-year-old daughter, Emily, thinks that the word pudding means yoghurt. She once had a chocolate mousse but she did not want to eat it all because it was "too rich".

The family eat vegetarian, organically grown wholefood, with no added salt and drink filtered water and unsweetened fruit juices. Christine, who is a 36-year-old graphic designer, and her husband, John, who runs a wholefood shop, believe that they have educated their children's palates not to crave the heightened, artificial flavours of processed food.

"You are partly what you eat," says Christine. "With organic wholefood, you know you are not eating chemicals. It is good, unprocessed food, untampered with, and as nature intended. We occasionally eat fish, but never touch meat or chicken.

"I have a great sense of well-being and feel in control of my health. I rely on it to see me through. With work and two small children, I lead a very busy life. If you are worn out and cross all the time, it is not fair to them."

Christine and John first became vegetarian when they were students at York University and extremely hard-up. "We took it up because it was cheap," she says. They read Rose Elliott's The Bean Book, which educated them about wholefood. "Our eating is firmly rooted in the English wholefood tradition."

Christine starts the day with a bowl of muesli and soya milk, while the children, Emily, four, and Harriet, three, eat various cereals from their father's shop with added fresh fruit. For lunch, Christine eats a salad from the local supermarket, often tabbouleh, with bean salad and some green leaves.

For supper, she first decides whether to have pasta, bread, potatoes or rice and then decides what to put with it. The evening I saw her, her children had chosen to have pasta, so she had made a cheese sauce and steamed some small green beans to go with it. Everyone liked it. She always makes too much, so the children can take the left-overs to school the next day.

If they eat rice, John usually makes stir-fried vegetables and tofu, and if they eat baked potatoes, they will usually have butter, cheese or baked beans with them. They always have green vegetables as well. In the winter, they eat a lot of home-made vegetable soup and toast.

Christine admits there are two problems about eating the way they do: the cost and the time. "I am lucky because almost all our food comes from my husband's shop, but for some people the price of fresh, organic produce can be prohibitive.

"This kind of cooking can also be rather labour intensive, which is why I often cook in bulk, making too much, so that the children can have the leftovers the next day. Sometimes I put potatoes in the oven before I go out in the morning and set the oven to come on before we get home, so supper is almost ready when we get in."

The couple, who live in Kentish Town, north London, do not believe in forbidding their children things because they think that makes them more attractive. So they were allowed chocolate Easter eggs and they have eaten at McDonald's.

"I have probably taken them twice. They have eaten the chips and drunk fresh orange juice. But I do not like their food. You do not know where it comes from. It just arrives in huge lorries. And their rolls are a travesty of bread."

Christine says the whole family is extremely healthy. "I would not put it all down to the food, since John and I both come from very healthy families, but the food stands you in good stead."


If you glance inside Phil Treseder's car, you get a pretty good picture of his diet. It is full of empty crisp packets, chocolate bar wrappers, sandwich bags and tins of Coca-Cola.

Treseder, a 33-year-old children's rights consultant, reckons he eats about one healthy meal a week. "I share the house with some vegetarians and we sometimes eat a meal together at weekends. Otherwise, I am afraid it is take-aways for me: chips, pizzas and Chinese."

Weighing in at about 15 stone ("I don't know exactly because I don't have any scales"), he blames his work for his diet. "I travel a great deal, so I don't buy much fresh food, because it goes off before I have a chance to eat it.

"I probably have vegetables about once a week, and fruit twice a week. I am not a great fan of either. I go to the pub two or three times during the week and drink about two pints, but at the weekends, when I go, I drink five or six pints each night. When I went to the rugby international in Dublin recently, I hate to think how much I drank, because we just drank all the time. Then again, if I am running a residential course for kids I won't drink anything at all."

For breakfast, he has toast (brown or white, according to what the shop has in stock) with jam or marmalade and tea. If he is at home for lunch, he will have another round of toast with cheese or taramasalata. If he is out, it is a sandwich or a couple of pasties. Supper is either a take- away, such as a spicy chicken or pepperoni pizza, or, at home, it is a fried egg or beans on toast. He drinks about seven or eight cups of tea and really strong coffee a day, with semi-skimmed milk.

"I have never had any serious illnesses. Occasionally I have tonsillitis and I had chickenpox as an adult, but that obviously is not connected to my diet," Phil says. "I am probably half a stone overweight, because although I am about 15 stone, I am tall (6ft 3in).

"My only health problem is an allergy to the house dust mite, for which I take antihistamines, and which I could probably control by cutting down on dairy products. I went to a homeopath about it once, who gave me some stuff to take, but told me that I could not take it if I drank coffee. I thought 'no chance'.

"I am pretty contented and do not intend to change my diet. I know that a healthy diet contains lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and fewer dairy products than I eat and I would like to see healthy eating encouraged. I am quite convinced that a lot of cancer is linked to diet and I mistrust the food industry and the Government, because they do not inform the public properly.

"I can see strong reasons to change my diet, but it is not practical. I am too tied up in my work to worry about it, or to be able to change it."