Kiwi parents cook multiple evening meals for fussy family members, say their kids refuse to eat anything green and choose from the same repertoire of five meals to avoid dinnertime drama, according to new research.
The survey revealed that two thirds (64%) of Kiwi parents cook more than one evening meal with over half (55%) preparing at least two dinner meals, and just under a tenth (9%) cook up to three dinners for the whole family on a weekly basis.
The study, commissioned by meal kit provider HelloFresh, found that a fifth (19%) of New Zealand parents often or always eat different meals to their children.
As a way to avoid dinnertime disappointment, eight in ten (79%) of parents cook the same meals regularly because they know the kids will eat it without a fuss. For a fifth (22%) of families, this involves cooking from a repertoire of five-six meals per week, but as many as a quarter (24%) of households are restricted to the same three-four meals each week.
Interestingly, there seems to be some commonalities in the foods and flavours kids across New Zealand dislike.
Half (49%) of parents report they struggle to get their children to eat spicy food, a third (36%) say their children don’t like anything bitter and a shocking 32% of kids refuse to eat anything green!
On the other end of the spectrum, it’s no surprise that far fewer parents report challenges in getting their kids to eat anything sweet (3%), salty (8%) or served with sauce (14%).
Otago University Professor Rachael Taylor says the nutritional consequences of having fussy eaters in the household depends greatly on which foods they are resistant to.
“Many children are fussy about vegetables but eat reasonable amounts of fruit. Others can be reluctant to eat meat, so appropriate vegetarian sources of iron are required for such children.
“The more extensive the fussiness the greater the chance of issues with nutrition.
“For most “fussy” eaters though their nutritional intake is probably reasonable - each case would have to be looked at individually.”
Professor Taylor says while there is a genetic link to food preferences, they are probably more heavily influenced by our exposure to different foods from a young age.
“There is some suggestion that a proportion of the population has a much higher concentration of taste buds on their tongue which may lead to selective eating habits - especially when it comes to bitter foods and beverages such as coffee, grapefruit juice and olives.”
“We also know that the environment we are raised in has a significant impact on the foods we become accustomed to.
“Every infant in the world starts off life on a milk-only diet of some form. As solid foods are gradually introduced these children from a wide range of different cultures, learn to like a variety of flavours” she says.
The survey also found that just under half of parents (47%) worry that their children are not getting adequate nutrients for their health and wellbeing. While some parents believe it’s just kids being kids, more than eight in ten (82%) of parents resort to some form of bribery to get their kids to eat dinner. For these families, as many as a fifth (21%) resort to bribery more than two times a week.
Common techniques or forms of persuasion used by parents include telling kids they only have to try a little bit (52%), offering dessert as a reward (35%), or disguising the food (31%).
Professor Taylor says perseverance is key to overcoming fussy eating habits, especially with small children.
“We know it takes many, many times being offered a food without any pressure from parents before children may even taste the food.
“Adults should be good role models including eating together as a family - young children are very influenced by what their parents do,” she says.
CEO of HelloFresh New Zealand and father of three Tom Rutledge says meal kits provide an alternative solution for families with fussy eaters.
“Creating a meal everyone will enjoy is really important to parents. A lot of life lessons can be learned around the dinner table. From the results of our survey, we can see parents are spending extra hours making multiple meals in order to feed the entire family and are still met with resistance from fussy eaters. “
“Dinner time should be an opportunity to expand your kids’ food horizons, helping them to discover new foods they love, rather than feeding them the same meals from a small repertoire.
“At HelloFresh the culinary team analyse all of the customer feedback on the recipes delivered to Kiwis, and take these into consideration when creating new recipes.
“By carefully listening to our Kiwi customers we’re able to determine which food combinations are the most liked. This helps to ensure that even the most fussiest of eaters in any household is well catered for,” he says.