An eye-watering 81% of UK parents have admitted to experiencing ‘meal fatigue’ and are struggling to think of new meals to cook that are family friendly, healthy, easy to make and offer variety.
With more than a quarter of parents (28%) finding it challenging to make dinner exciting so their children will eat everything, more than half of parents (53%) struggle to prepare a meal that everyone will enjoy and 26% find it difficult to create a meal that is both healthy and affordable and within their budget (14%).
The research, which was conducted by premium children’s brand, Stokke, and explored the importance of eating meals together as a family, found that almost half of those surveyed (49%) believe eating together as a family creates a happier child and 34% believe it creates a more confident child.
Embracing mealtimes as time spent together, the research also revealed that UK families have ditched the TV dinner and turned their backs on eating whilst sat on the sofa.
Once thought of as old-fashioned and a formal affair, three fifths of families (60%) will always eat their family meals together at the dinner table and less than a quarter (22%) now eat their dinner whilst lounging on the sofa and in front of the television screen.
Although the average family meal lasts just 23 minutes, Brits are keen to make mealtimes special, as 15% of parents said that eating together has become an occasion they look forward to during the pandemic.
Keen to get everyone involved, 61% of parents let their children help with dinner, with 45% doing so to help teach their children life skills. Over a third of parents (36%) allow their children to set the dinner table and more than a quarter (29%) of kids help with meal preparation tasks, such as washing vegetables and stirring food.
As more than a third of families view eating together a family tradition (36%) and 40% use mealtimes to discuss any problems or issues, dinner time doesn’t come without its challenges.
82% of parents worry about the nutritional value of the food they are serving their children and keen to ensure they are getting the balance right, 50% worry if the food they are preparing contains too much sugar, too much salt (49%) and too much saturated or trans fats (35%).
|Top 10 Family Favourite Home Cooked Meals||Percentage (%)|
|1. Roast Dinner||48%|
|2. Spaghetti Bolognese||47%|
|4. Fish & Chips||35%|
|6. Sausage & Mash||30%|
|7. Pasta Bake||28%|
|8. Burgers & Chips||25%|
|10. Fish Fingers||21%|
Baby and Child Nutritionist, Charlotte Stirling-Reed commented: “It is not uncommon for parents to worry about the nutritional value of the food they are serving their children and little ones.
The food children and babies eat when they are younger can really make a difference on how they eat as they get older.
However, it’s important for parents to keep the pressure off for everyone, including themselves. Think about what’s eaten over a week, not day to day and avoid coaxing little ones to eat or ensuring kids stay at the table until they’ve finished the meal.
All of this can impose negative associations around foods which is ultimately what we want to avoid if we’re trying to create little foodies.”
Charlotte Stirling-Reed shares her top three mealtime routines for parents:
1. Eat together, where possible – Sitting together and being present at mealtimes helps, but actually eating similar things can also help children to accept a wider variety.
Some research shows that families eating together is a big factor in positively influencing the diets of their children, so as much as you can try to ROLEMODEL what a balanced diet looks like, and it’s likely your little ones will follow suit.
Remember babies also learn the WHAT and the HOW of eating from copying their parents and those around them too, which is why I love the Stokke Tripp Trapp as a great way to bring baby right to the table with you at mealtimes.
2. Make the environment enjoyable – Making the mealtime environment fun and enjoyable for all can be KEY to having children who actually want to be a part of the family meals and also eat the foods you’ve got on offer.
Try to keep mealtimes light and avoid negative topics as much as possible. Play some soft music and avoid it becoming a negative space that the kids are eager to avoid. It’s easier said than done, but sometimes stepping back from the table and observing where a few little tweaks can be made is all that’s needed.
3. Get them involved in mealtimes– Not only does building this into your evening routine give parents a bit of a break, but again getting them involved helps them to feel more “part of it” and can make mealtimes more of an occasion. Ask for help with laying, mixing, serving or (dare we say it) clearing up at the end of the meal.
Expert nutritional advice from Charlotte Stirling-Reed, author of new book “How to wean your baby”, that publishes on 29th April but available for pre-order. www.amazon.co.uk @sr_nutrition
Stokke is a leading high end baby brand in Scandinavia whose ethos is to nurture family bonding, having your baby closer to you and the importance of eye contact.
The iconic Tripp Trapp® highchair was launched in 1972 and has since sold more than 12 million worldwide. www.stokke.com @stokkebaby