It’s an age old problem that has plagued well-meaning parents throughout the ages – how to get the kids to eat up their greens and other healthy foods.
But a snapshot of modern family life shows that the mums and dads of today are losing the mealtime war as kids use a sophisticated mix of old and new tricks either to get out of eating healthy foods they don’t like – or to eat them up at a price!
A nationwide survey of more than 3,000 parents commissioned by sweet corn producer Green Giant – one of the few vegetables that most kids like – has found that one in three children are described as fussy eaters by their parents, while two-thirds of parents insist that kids are more fussy today than when they themselves were youngsters.
According to the findings, more than one in 20 children resorts to hiding the foods they don’t want to eat, with one mother reporting that her six-year-old son is regularly caught flushing peas down the toilet. A mother with a four-year old son, said she has to pretend that his favourite animation character, Buzz Lightyear, is on the phone saying he is having the same thing as him for dinner before he will eat.
A similar proportion of children have been caught sneaking food onto another family member’s plates and to the dog, while good old-fashioned sulks (13%), tantrums (14%) and claiming to be full (34%) are children’s most common forms of defence against eating foods they don’t like.
One in five parents say they let their kids eat dinner in front of the television, while a similar number have resorted to buying special treats for pudding as a reward.
One in 10 parents say to keep the family happy they eat at different times to their kids, and one in five say they have to cook different meals to suit different tastes.
The OnePoll study also shows that one in 10 children regularly use mobile phones or iPods to entertain themselves during mealtimes, while the most frequent mealtime family arguments include having to eat at the table, bad manners and rows over the washing up.
Meanwhile, more than one in five parents say they offer rewards or bribes to make their children eat, while one in six parents are just giving kids what they want to eat.
The study also shows the increasing lengths that both parents and children will go to in their bid to gain an advantage in the mealtime war stakes, with blackmail, tricks and good old-fashioned tantrums all being deployed.
However, three quarters of parents surveyed found modern family mealtimes stressful and compared them with reverse parking, being late for work and a trip to the dentist. Some even admitted parents were to blame, with more than half (55%) saying parents let their kids get away with being fussy, more than four out of 10 (44%) admit to just wanting an easy life, and more than a quarter (26%) saying they don’t have the time or energy to argue.
Perhaps most annoyingly for parents, the survey found that their children’s mealtime behaviour can totally change when a take-away is on offer, or if they are eating out. One in four parents say they children will eat what they are given at a friend’s house, while one in five will clear their plates without argument if out dining at a restaurant or eating a take-away at home.
General Mills nutritionist Vanessa McConkey RNutri says: “These findings reinforce the importance of getting back to the table – sitting down together as a family to enjoy mealtimes, without the many distractions revealed by this survey. Kids can be very fussy and encouraging them to eat a proper, nutritious meal can be difficult for parents”.
“Instilling healthy eating habits early on in life will help ensure children eat a healthy, balanced meal, rich in vegetables and fruit and get more of the nutrients they need. It will also increase the likelihood of these healthy habits being carried on throughout life. Choosing vegetables like canned sweet corn can make it much easier to ensure children get one of their recommended five a day.”
Requiring no cooking or preparation, Green Giant® sweet corn is so versatile – it’s the ultimate store cupboard product. Just 80g of Green Giant sweet corn (approximately three heaped tablespoons) counts towards one of your five-a-day, which makes it one of the most convenient vegetables around. What’s more, because Green Giant cans its sweet corn within 24 hours of picking, it keeps its natural sweetness and crisp texture.