Parents have revealed the tricks they use to get their children to eat a healthy diet – including giving food silly names, grating vegetables into dishes and letting them eat in front of the TV.
A study of 2,000 parents, with children aged between two and six, found 82 per cent consider their kids to be ‘fussy eaters’.
More than half (59 per cent) of those ‘fussy’ diners will complain they don’t like something – before they have even tried it.
As a result, seven in 10 parents have to resort to trickery in the kitchen or make mealtime choices and food selection a little more inclusive.
Top of the list is letting the children choose their own fruit and veg in the supermarket (37 per cent).
Other tactics include giving children the opportunity to choose the family meals each week (33 per cent), eat with their fingers rather than a knife and fork (33 per cent) and only allowing pudding if all the fruit and vegetables have been eaten (29 per cent).
But some of the more creative tricks included chopping fruit into breakfast cereal and sprinkling grated cheese onto a dish to hide the ‘healthy’ food.
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It seems to be working though as eight in 10 felt the tactics are generally successful.
Mark Simester, managing director at Soreen, which commissioned the research, said: “For many parents, getting your children to eat nutritious foods, such as fruit and veg and foods that are a source of fibre, can prove immensely tricky.
“Often because young children simply don’t like the taste or prefer something sweeter and more treat-like.
“But this research has shown that parents often need to get creative when it comes to getting kids to eat the right foods.
“While children can be fussy eaters, it’s important they get the nutrients they need from fruit and vegetables and there are options available out there that are still tasty and convenient, to help them to do this.”
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The study also found that children are most likely to be fussy when it comes to vegetables (62 per cent), along with meat (37 per cent), fish (36 per cent) and fruit (23 per cent).
But the average parent faces three mealtimes a week where their children will refuse to eat the food on their plate, while vegetables will be left untouched four times a week.
More than half of parents said their children dislike Brussels sprouts (52 per cent), with avocados (48 per cent), mushrooms (48 per cent), beetroot (45 per cent) and cabbages (41 per cent) also on the ‘hate’ list.
Instead, given the choice, three in 10 parents said their kids would happily eat chips with either sausages, fish or nuggets, while 26 per cent would prefer a bowl of pasta.
As a result, six in 10 parents must be clever with mealtimes to ensure their children eat everything on their plates, with seven in 10 always buying the same fruit and vegetables once they find something their youngster likes.
Six in 10 parents turn to mealtime tricks as they want to make sure their kids are getting the right nutrients, while five in 10 do it to educate their children about the importance of eating a balanced diet.
But three in 10 admitted it simply makes life a lot easier.
It also emerged that eight in 10 parents said their children have a sweet tooth with 59 per cent using the incentive of a sugary treat to get them to eat something healthy first.
Three in 10 of those polled via OnePoll admitted to bribing their children with sugary snacks to get them to eat all their fruit and vegetables on the plate while just two in 10 do so to get their kids to work hard at school.
Liz Jacobs, from Soreen, added: “We know all too well that children would prefer to reach for a sweet treat, while parents are faced with the constant battle of providing a balanced diet for their children.
“However, there are foods and snacks out there that can deliver on health, nutrition and taste – a win for parents and for children.
“Soreen’s Fruit & Veg-Mmms – Blackberry & Beetroot and Orange & Rainbow Carrot bakes – are high in fruit and veg, giving parents the peace of mind that their children are eating a healthier snack.
“In fact, our research highlighted that 45 per cent of parents stated that their children dislike beetroot, yet they wouldn’t even know beetroot was in our Blackberry & Beetroot bakes, as it’s disguised by the fabulous taste of berries, so kids love them.”
Top 30 tricks parents use to encourage their children to eat healthily
1. Let the children choose which fruit and veg they want in the supermarket
2. Always sit and eat with the children at the same time
3. Employ the ‘try it once’ rule – a full mouthful of food must be eaten before the child can make their mind up whether they like it or not
4. Give the children the opportunity to choose some of the meals the family has that week
5. Let your children enjoy finger foods rather than having to use a knife and fork
6. Only allow pudding if all the fruit or vegetables have been eaten
7. Give food silly names such as ‘dinosaur food’
8. Tell your children broccoli are trees
9. Grate carrots and other vegetables into a meat dish to disguise them
10. Cut the fruit or vegetables into funny shapes
11. Allow the children to eat in front of the TV rather than at the table
12. Chop fruit into breakfast cereal
13. Blend fruits and vegetables into homemade smoothies as a ‘treat’
14. Let the children watch TV while at the table
15. Prepare all of the food on the plate into the shape of something funny like a face or picture
16. Whatever the meat is, you tell your child it is chicken
17. Make fruit lollipops
18. Offer snack bowls of raw vegetables with dips when they’re watching television
19. Take a piece of fruit to school pick up so it’s the first thing they have when they’re hungry
20. Allow children to cover their meal in ketchup
21. Make vegetable faces
22. Whatever the fish is, you’ve told your child it’s the same as fish fingers
23. Let the children cook whenever they want to
24. Flavour the food with garlic or butter
25. Sprinkle grated cheese on everything to disguise the healthy food
26. The children aren’t allowed to snack on anything unhealthy until they have a piece of fruit
27. Carve elaborate designs into certain fruits or vegetables
28. Fill homemade cakes with a blended fruit puree
29. Serve up dinners in homemade dens rather than insisting the children eat at the table
30. Have a colour theme for the dinner