Over two fifths of parents have a repertoire of just seven children’s meals, according to new research from Organix.
The survey of 1,500 mums and dads reveals that they repeat the same main courses every week, every month, instead of introducing their children to a variety of tastes and textures.
Organix asked 1,500 parents across the UK, with children under the age of four, to share information about their mealtime routines and experiences of cooking for their children.
Dr. Frankie Phillips, a leading child nutritionist, said: “The Organix study shows that parents are struggling to find the time and confidence to experiment with interesting food for their children.
“This is a shame, as it is important to introduce children to a range of new flavours and textures early on. A lack of variety can significantly reduce the chances of getting a balanced diet.”
More than 22 per cent of parents told Organix that they let their children choose what they want to eat. This may seem a good move towards independence, but the reality is that without variety children may not be eating a wide enough range of food to deliver the nutrition they need.
Dr. Phillips added: “Accordingly to the survey, Parents are not always aware of the nutritional content in children’s food; fewer than 12 per cent faithfully check what is in the food they buy for their children and 28 per cent say they never check for the nutritional value.”
More than a quarter of parents confessed that their children prefer chocolate, sweets, cakes, crisps and pizza to healthier foods, including pasta based recipes, fruit and vegetables.
Over a fifth of the parents surveyed had no concerns about their children’s diets, believing that a child grows out of any bad eating habits as they get older.
Dr. Phillips warns: “These early stages can shape your child’s relationship with food and influence their diet in adulthood, so it is vital to get it right now. Presenting your children with an interesting variety of food when they are little helps them to love real, good food as they grow up.”
The good news is that good food does not have to be tough or time-consuming according to Dr. Phillips. “Trying out different recipes doesn’t have to be complicated,” he said. “Some of the healthiest recipes use real, good ingredients that you are likely to have in your cupboard or fridge already.”
Organix has two simple tips to help:
1. If you are really busy, try substituting different ingredients to frequently cooked recipes, to make sure you add some variety – try carrots instead of peas or pork instead of lamb.
2. If you’re struggling for inspiration, include some extra fruit and veg on your child’s plate. This will help expose your child to a range of different tastes and textures at mealtimes, with no extra cooking involved.
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