Busy lifestyles mean families are spending less time eating - cooking fewer meals from scratch, producing meals in double-quick time, often under time pressures, and eating them more rapidly too, so spending less time enjoying the taste and flavour of 'real' food.
The survey of mums reflects findings of a report commissioned by Organix: "Engineering Taste - Is this the future of our children's food?" which reveals that children are growing up with a taste for engineered food.
The report found that engineered foods - with unnecessary additives, artificial flavours and colours - are contributing towards quicker mealtimes (both preparation and eating), and the true experience of fresh food is being planned, designed and engineered out of the lives of increasing numbers of families.
The reality is that midweek mealtimes now take around 10 to 15 minutes to prepare and we spend around the same amount of time consuming what's on our plates - whereas we used to spend 30 minutes at the table.
Greg Tucker, Taste Psychologist, who carried out the study says "When we eat, our stomach sends a signal to our brain to let us know when we're full. This works fine if we're eating our food slowly, as it takes around 20 minutes for this to happen. However, as engineered foods deliver flavour sensations faster and flavour bursts quickly die away, that ignores our inbuilt taste receptors and overrides the stomach to brain signals, leaving children feeling emptier sooner, so they eat more."
Eating 'real' food is seen as hard work for everyone involved. Not only does it take more time to prepare, it takes more time to eat. Children are becoming used to food being low effort, and in fact chewing food is hard work for many children.
The study found that eating a chicken nugget is an easier experience than eating 'real' chicken breast, as the breadcrumb coating is engineered to dissolve and break down in the mouth with the minimum of effort. In fact, even when mums in the study did give their children 'real' foods, they found it hard to allow them the time to eat them properly.
Taste Psychologist Greg Tucker, says "We found that children are learning to look for fast taste gratification and easy eats - and losing the ability and desire to invest the time and effort to enjoy and experience 'real' food."
"Little mouths (and wobbly teeth) need longer to break down food especially 'real' foods because they are more challenging. This is a genuine barrier for children who are acclimatising to food being low effort. Children are losing the skills to experience taste, flavour and texture."
Vegetables with ketchup - masking 'real' food. To encourage their children to eat good food, many mums gave them 'masking agents' or 'engineered foods' to accelerate mealtimes. For example, tomato ketchup is regularly used to ensure vegetables are eaten quickly. While this may help get little ones to munch on broccoli, long term it may lead children to believe that adding sauces to 'real' foods is the right way to eat them.
It's only when we spend more time thoroughly exploring and munching our food that we are able to experience the full range of flavours and textures on our plates. So, while we have to be realistic - there will always be times when we squeeze mid-week family dinners around work - it's clear that slowing down our eating makes a difference.
Join the conversation at: #OrganixTaste.