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Ben Shephard: 'My boys constantly surprise and delight me'

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Ben Shephard interview
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We caught up with celebrity dad, Ben Shephard, about the challenges of parenting and staying fit and healthy. We also chatted about Ben being involved in Nestlé's healthy breakfast campaign, which saw him go up against Sara Cox and Louise Redknapp in a challenge to eat healthier breakfasts with their families. Ben, 37, has been married to Annie Perks for 8 years and they have two boys together, Sam, 7, and Jack, 5. 

What do your boys have for breakfast? They've always been really healthy. Usually it's Shreddies and Cheerios, those are their weapons of choice! Occasionally they'll have a bit of jam on toast, but that's usually a little treat. The great thing about cereal is that they can do it themselves - which they love, plus it's really convenient.

So, no fussy eaters in your house? No not at all, we've been really lucky, they really aren't fussy at all. And, we've got a rule that they have to try something before they can say they don't like it. Every now and again Sam will say he doesn't like something and we know he would, if he'd just try it.

Do you have any tips for parents who struggle with getting their kids to eat healthily? As long as they think that their children are having a balanced diet, then I don't think there's much wrong in giving them a treat every now and then. To stay fit and healthy you have to have everything in moderation - it's the only way. 

But, if it comes down to getting them off something bad and onto something good, all I'd ever do is bribe them - incentivising kids always works. So if our boys have got to finish their dinner before they can get down from the table then we'll make it into a game. We'd say they have to have 5 more mouthfuls and as they eat their mouthfuls they have to try and push my fingers down, which they love because they can't - it just makes it fun. I've learnt it's all about bribery and negotiation. You've got to remember that children are criminal masterminds; they have the ability to manipulate without even thinking they are. They are like Jedis when it comes to that sort of thing. Trying to stay one step ahead of them is definitely one of the biggest challenges I've found with being a parent.

What other challenges have you come across during parenting? Not giving in is one of the hardest things about being a parent. If you say something, you've got to go through with it, because as soon as you don't, you've undermined yourself. But, to be honest they are good boys, they eat well and eat their greens. If it ever turns in to hard work then we just turn it into a game and take their mind off the fact that they are eating something they don't particularly want to.

What made you want to be involved with Nestlé's breakfast challenge? I like to keep myself relatively fit and healthy by exercising and more recently I've been interested in nutrition. As I'm approaching my 40th year in a few years time, I'm aware I need to look after my body, not just by exercise, but by eating the right thing. So when the guys from Nestlé approached me [about the Breakfast Challenge], I was really intruiged. The one area that I didn't pay that much attention to, was breakfast - as it's all about convenience and grabbing something to eat on the run. When the Nestlé nutrition guys were looking at what we were eating, it was fascinating to find that by making the change and having a bowl of cereal, like Cheerios or Shreddies, across the month, I could save 2 days worth of calories, 10 days worth of saturated fat and 6 days worth of fat. It was amazing and I really didn't realise those kinds of figures were involved with breakfast.

But you look like you keep in shape. What were you having for breakfast before? When I was back doing GMTV and on the breakfast show, it was all about whatever was kicking around the office - which would usually be a couple of trays of Danish pastries or bread rolls. You'd get an immediate buzz of energy from them, but you'd also get a drop. Delicious as they are you'd have to keep eating them to get enough energy across the morning - which obviously isn't very good for you! Plus, I've also always been a sucker for a bacon roll, I wouldn't necessarily make one at home but I'd pick one up on the way to where I was going - again though, by mid-morning I'd be hungry again. So, having a decent bowl of cereal with the whole family keeps us full for the whole morning. Also, we get our wholegrain, which is really important, and loads of goodness from the milk too.

And, what would you have if you were really treating yourself for breakfast? If I'm going to be really naughty then it's eggs benedict - but that hardly ever happens anymore. Occasionally we'll all get pain au chocolats and croissants with fruit juice, too.

So, have you noticed a difference in how you feel since taking up the challenge? The release of energy across the morning has been the most noticeable thing for me. I've got quite high energy reserves anyway, but that's the one thing that I can actually gauge - I don't have that energy slump I used too before lunchtime.

And finally, what's your favourite thing about being a dad? I was thinking the other day how much I love just being outside and playing in the garden with them - whether it's football or cricket. Essentially my favourite thing about being a dad is having two little me's to go and run around with. Plus, they constantly surprise and delight me and make me laugh!

Ben Shephard is supporting the Battle of the Breakfast Shows campaign for Nestlé Cereals. See how your breakfast matches up at www.battleofthebreakfasts.co.uk. 

Where to next?

- Best and worst cereals revealed!

- Patsy Kensit talks parenting

- 10 easy ways to speed up your metabolism

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