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Calling all parents: Please Help Me; Opinions on Childrens diets for research ass please!!!!with cherry on top!!!!

(138 Posts)
foxd Sat 14-May-05 08:10:23

I have a research ass due in on mon so furiously typing away this weekend to get it completed.

My research question has been: What are the factors preventing children eating balanced diets? and What can be realistically acheived taking into consideration modern lifestyles?

Pleae could you spare a few minutes and give your opinion and points of view that anyone has about this topic.
Also have just read an article from the Daily mail archives stating that in a poll 80% of readers believed parents were responsible for the rising childhood obesity epidemic? does anyone have any points of view regarding this?

It would be much appreciated and I promise to buy every one a drink who posts a message, in the 'Come into my bar' thread tonite.

Fran1 Sat 14-May-05 08:22:46

I'm sorry but my biggest factor preventing children eating a balanced diet is the PARENTS!! And later when at school it will be the schooldinners.

I believe i achieve a healthy balanced diet for my child even thought i work parttime.

Other factors will include - marketing of rubbish foods, sweeties situated in shops at childrens eye level, parents lack of knowledge/willingness/ability. Parents own upbringing and diet as a child.


Nemo1977 Sat 14-May-05 08:32:32

Hi I agree with Fran. It is down to parents to control what their children eat the majority of the time. It is important to present your child with a balanced diet which can also include treats so that foods are not 'banned' then setting up a mm why are they banned mentality. I do not eat well but as a parent it is my duty to my son to ensure he does. I am an adult and am aware of potential problems i cause myself, my children are not aware. The school does play some responsibility as they also have to provide meals to children and as highlighted by Jamie
Oliver they are obviously going for cheap none nutritious food.

I also agree that advertising and 'glorifying' bad foods is a big hurdle to face. Things are set in bright packaging that appeals to even the smallest of hands and eyes. My son when he was 10mths was picking up crisps in the shop not because he knew what they where but more because the packaging appealed to him with bright colours and shiny paper.

NotQuiteCockney Sat 14-May-05 08:36:08

I'd say parents were only part of the problem. I think food adverts on children's TV are horrid, and popular kid's characters seem to always be tied into not-very-healthy food. (Although, bizarrely, the Incredibles have an Oxo cube tie-in. So I have to explain to my 3 year old why we don't need stock cubes.)

I'd like to see legislation stopping food adverts on kids' tv, and I think the government plan to have a simple "traffic light" system on food might help, too. (Although I'd bet some kids would get into it, and not eat anything that didn't have a red light!)

tigermoth Sat 14-May-05 08:39:37

Snacking on junk food. IME this means the proper food at mealtimes doesn't gets eaten and hey presto - one non balanced diet.

Snacking on healthy foods is different - I think it's very possible to have a balanced diet if the snacks are healthly and balanced - even if they replace proper big meals.

Thomcat Sat 14-May-05 08:47:16

I think it starts with the parents defo. But I found I had to battle with friends and childminders and relatives to try and keep my DD's diet healthy. My childminder often gave my DD things I didn't want her to start yet. There was no real harm but I didn't want to even let her taste white bread and jam sandwiches and kitkats and crisps until she realised she was missing out and asked for them herself. At kids parties as well, of which we went to loads early on, the only options were sausage rolls, jam sarnies, biscuits and crisps, not a piece of fruit of some cheese in sight. Going over to friends for adult parties and the hostess cooking for kids, nuggets and smiley faces. Suddenly my DD was into the world of additive laden food and my home made sweet potato and lamb stew didn't have the same appeal.

I've kept at it but it didn become difficult. She still won'y eat sweet potato anymore but I make my own chicken nuggets now and substitute chocolate for yoghurt coated apricots and biscuits are in the form of flapjacks or fig rolls.

foxd Sat 14-May-05 09:45:33

Thankyou so much for your opinions so far.
Bumping the message up

moondog Sat 14-May-05 10:09:50

Would agree with everything written so far. lack of knowledge about cooking,buying and handling food has to be a hige factor as there seems to be some perception that it is time consuming to cook 'real' food. Nonsense! I can put a home made meal on the table in the time it takes to get something out of the freezer and microwave it.

People could and should see food as a unifying process-not just the eating of it,but the shopping and the preparation of it. My dd started to help very early on,stirring things,chopping things with a blunt knife and so on. One of her favourite books is a children's cookery book.

I don't like going somewhere on holiday,unless i can do some cooking myself. My happiest times are spent stirring and chopping in the kitchenglass of wine in hand,chattin g to dh and having the children play around me.

Worry about the implications of possibly banning fast food and junk food advertising during children's viewing times. We can't regulate and control averything,yet evidently many parents are so ignorant (in the true sense of the word) and deskilled that something needs to be done.

There should however be nothing but nourishing proper food available in public spaces (eg schools,and hospitals).In this situation,the government does have a responsibility to set an example. i would never let my children eat British school meals in their present form.

Just like to add that I am not rustling up 3 course meals every night. On occasion,we are all perfectly happy with a sandwich on our laps!

ScummyMummy Sat 14-May-05 10:19:52

Factors that contribute to my kids eating badly sometimes:
*no time and too tired to think of varied diet so fall back on old "easy" favourites eg: pasta, pizza.
*fussy eating from one son doesn't help
*a lot of easy staples- breakfast cereal, yogurts, etc are packed full of shite and it is hard to find healthy versions that aren't astronomically expensive. Partner and I disagree on whether to spend the extra- I am deeply ashamed that we have Frosties in the house as I know that my mum would be turning in her grave but partner grew up with shit cereals and can't see the harm, especially as our kids, unsurprisingly, prefer the sugary shite.
* expanding on the last point, i think that parents often try to recreate their own experiences. My kids' diet is worse than mine was at their age partly because their dad's diet as a child was worse than mine was and we share childcare pretty much 50-50.

What would help?
*parents agreeing on banning sugary shite rather than Frosties mysteriously disappearing from the house!
*no toy giveaways tied to food.
*healthier easy foods available- ready meals, sugar free yogurts, etc
*educating kids about healthy eating helps. My fussy eater has forced down a few things he would never ever have considered since doing a basic healthy eating topic as part of the year 1 curriculum. I could have kissed his teacher!

WideWebWitch Sat 14-May-05 10:34:30

Ooh, I could go on for hours! But I won't, here you are though, my view on the factors preventing children eating balanced diets and the obseity epidemic, in no partic order, although some are related:

Lack of edication at school on what constitutes a healthy, balanced diet. If you become a parent and have no idea what to feed yourself or what is good for you you're hardly going to do a good job of feeding your child/ren

following on from this if the only thing you have to go on is manufacturers' claims you might well believe that certain products are healthy when they're not. Interesting Panorama story here

parents falling for advertising and claims that xyz food is only x% fat/no sugar (hmm, often doesn't mean much) - see the story above

pester power leading kids to pester parents for crap. Look at the advertising aimed at kids - I'm fairly sure you could say NONE of it is for healthy food. There are no prime time kids tv ads for fruit or veg or smoothies. They're all for processed food. Because processed food = more profit for manufacturers. Their idea of added value is added value to them in the form of hydrogenated fat, sugar, colourings etc: all cheap ingredients = more profit

parents being lazy about cooking and deciding they don't have any longer than the 1 minute it takes to microwave a ready meal. I remember some news report a while back saying that a lot of people regard this as 'cooking!' Which clearly, to me anyway, it isn't! It doesn't take much longer to stick some veg in to roast or some fish in to bake or some carrots on to boil but if people don't know how to cook they won't know to do this

The supermarkets. Where to start with them? Well, they'd like us to buy crap and processed food too because the more margin in a product for a supplier, the more margin for a supermarket. So the high profit lines are strategically placed and priced (sometimes/often as loss leaders to get a brand known) to shift greater quantities. They make price demands on their suppliers leading, in some cases, to cost cutting measures (feeding sheep brains to cows, mm, that was a good idea wasn't it?) which are almost never going to be good for the supplier/consumer. Unless all the consumer cares about is low prices, which admitedly is the case sometimes. The squeeze out local shops who may have known/cared more about the origin of their produce. We've all moved a long way from the origin of our food - look at the childrne on Jamie's school dinners who didn't recognise fruit/veg but DID recognise McDonalds. Shocking imo.

Schools allowing vending machines selling Coke/fizzy drinks. Hmm, sugar, water, colouring, flavouring, caffeine. I don't think it's a suitable drink for children and I certainly don't think it should be sold in schools but it is.

Schools selling crap for school lunches, see Saint Jamie Oliver

Schools not encouraging physical exercise enough and selling off playing fields. Obvious.

Parents buying the line that they're just too busy to give their children food that's good for them and that <insert nutritionally deficient food here> is easier. I don't think it is hard or time consuming to feed children stuff that isn't junk but then, I've never tried the alternative. Maybe I'd realise where all my time's going if I did? I doubt it though.

So, I think it's the fault of

- the processed food industry. There's more profit in Sunny Delight than broccoli
- The govt for not regulating them re labelling on food and advertising aimed at children on tv/other places
- parents for being lazy/saying 'oh, it's all he'll eat' I don't buy it. A child doesn't do the weekly shop, parents do. It's up to parents to say no to this stuff. Maybe some don't know how to say no though?
- Fast food companies for peddling crap. Although I don't think they're to blame as much as the others above.

What can be done? I don't know. But a good start would be

Regulation of advertising aimed at children
Stricter regulation on labels etc
Better nutritional/cooking education for children
Ditto parents
Banning of vending machines selling junk at school
Better school dinners
No selling off playing fields
People buying decent food and getting back to local suppliers. There's been a huge growth in the organic box market so some people are

All the walk to school weeks in the world won't combat that lot above. Good luck with your essay, let us know how you get on, this is a subject dear to my heart as you can tell!

moondog Sat 14-May-05 10:34:51

scummymummy,just want to say I'm surprised at your request for healthy foods to be more easily available! They are!!! One thing that gets me every time I go into a supermarket is the rows and rows of sugary yoghurts in bright packaging aggressively marketed at children. I head straight for the large pots of plain yoghurt, That's all my kids have ever known and they eat it very happily (as do dh and I!)

If you read a little about food through the last century,what may surpise people is that people actually consumed more sugar and fat than they do nowe,but because life was more physical,they burnt it off easily.

Another point-we travel a great deal with our two (mixture of work and pleasure) People always ask what we do for food for the children. We can't believe they ask this,because our puzzled answer is that they have what we have,wherever we are!
We are now in Turkey and ds (10 mths) enjoys all the lovely stuff available here,as they do/did in Malaysia,Thailand,France,Russia,Sri Lanka and so on.
Maybe it's because the adults in our family enjoy food so much-don't children always want what the grown ups want?
Afgain I am amazed at the people who eat crap themselves,then are disappointed that their children aren't happy dipping broccoli florets into plain low fat yoghurt! Errr.doesn't work quite like that!

WideWebWitch Sat 14-May-05 10:36:00

Totally agree with moondog, whose post wasn't there when I started my epic!

WideWebWitch Sat 14-May-05 10:36:51

I meant moondog's first post although I don't disagree with her second!

moondog Sat 14-May-05 10:38:51

Before I sound too smug,would just like to add that my weakness for excessive quantities of expensive wine is one habit I won't be trying to foster in my children!!

And sorry,but don't buy the 'fussy eater' scenario. if they're hungry,they'll eat-simple as that. Would never force a child to eat though,or argue about it. Would just smile (thorough gritted teeth!) remove the palte and say 'Oh,you're not hungry. Well,that's all there is I'm afraid..'

WideWebWitch Sat 14-May-05 10:43:24

Oh and another thing re supermarkets, their strategic product placement strategies make me SPIT! In order to buy (as I do) fresh fruit, veg, bread, milk, eggs, coffee, maybe meat, beans, tins of beans I HAVE to pass millions and millions of products I don't want, don't need and won't be buying. I'm not saying they shouldn't sell them, just that they know that making people walk around the whole shop for basics mean that those people will make more impulse purchases = higher spend = more profit. Now, I know where stuff is in our local supermarket, even though they shift it around every now and again PRECISELY because of this and because they want me to walk down more aisles and buy more stuff I wasn't going to buy but it still annoys me that they are so manipulative. I really, really, really must start using a box scheme I know. Because actually, I don't buy all the other stuff.

WideWebWitch Sat 14-May-05 10:44:49

Oh and I'm fatter than I should be too, but it's down to wine, olive oil, choclate. None of which I think is bad, in moderation! There's the rub hey?

yoyo Sat 14-May-05 10:49:54

I would agree that parents are the main reason that children eat badly. After all they are the ones who buy and cook the meals. It all comes back to educating people about food so that even those who were brought up eating rubbish can see how easy it can be to eat healthily. I don't think there are many excuses really as we are bombarded with information from everywhere about the importance of eating 5 portions of fruit and veg, the amount of sugar in cereals, soft drinks, etc.

I do get disheartened when I see aisle after aisle of convenience meals in supermarkets and see some people unloading their trolleys which appear to contain none of the basic ingredients to prepare a meal from scratch. Again this is choice though as noone foces them to buy this stuff. I agree with Moondog that it is often quicker to rustle up something yourself. I do buy the odd convenience meal but more often than not it stays in the freezer for months and then gets thrown out.

Children do seem to be getting more info on diet in school now although it would be great to see the return of the old domestic science classes.

I enjoy the whole process of preparing a meal and hope that my children benefit from seeing the choices I make. They are fairly fussy but despite this they still eat a varied and healthy diet. I know so many people who hate cooking though that their children are immediately at a disadvantage.

For me mealtimes must be social times so we never eat in front of the tv, never eat on our laps and we try and eat together. Sometimes the children can be really horrible but we persevere because as they get older we are looking forward to lengthy enjoyable meals round the table with lots of conversation and hopefully laughter.

moondog Sat 14-May-05 10:51:09

www,I have a theory. Now that supermarkets are so big and that just driving in and out of them,negotiating all the unwanted stuff,as you say,queuing and driving out is so stressful and time consuming......where is the convenience and the time saving????

I try and avoid them and stick to smaller shops.More individual trips,but you're in and out in seconds,and contributing to the local economy.

Right,off out for a delicious Turkish lunch!

Tinker Sat 14-May-05 10:52:04

<<<Drooling at the thought of Frosties now >>>

WideWebWitch Sat 14-May-05 10:53:07

Still with us then Tinks?

Tinker Sat 14-May-05 10:53:55

Still here!

ScummyMummy Sat 14-May-05 11:10:37

The remove plate while smiling through gritted teeth thing is what I do, moondog. I try very hard not to pander to fussy eating but the fact remains that one of my sons eats a less varied, though not necessarily less healthy, diet than the other. My partner and I love all types of food and will try anything and one son is the same. We took them to eat sushi last weekend and one boy ate ten pieces of sashimi while the other actually cried at one point, when we waved a beautiful piece of salmon nigiri invitingly under his nose! You are right about plain yogurts- I tend to buy own brand multipacks because they're easier on the washing up and can be included in packed lunches but there must be plain versions. I must do better.

ScummyMummy Sat 14-May-05 11:16:05

Hi tinks! I could mail you the Frosties I've hidden on top of the cupboard?

ediemay Sat 14-May-05 11:21:08

I agree completely about the notion of 'convenience'. I find supermarkets completely time-engulfing, soul-destroying nightmares. Even the 'fresh-baked bread' is a con - full of flour improvers. Rant, rant. I chose where we live based on the range of local shops and actually enjoy going shopping. When I have to use a supermarket I do it online, so I can avoid the onslaught of Bob the Builder yogurt or Postman Pat beans or whatever.

My folks are both 80 and very healthy. I try to do what they have done - we do not eat processed food and rely on lots of fish and fresh veg and fruit. Fish is so under-used, yet it's so easy to cook and such a great protein source. I cram loads of veg into sauces, bakes etc.

I think crisps are a huge enemy in the UK - crunchy chemicals flavoured with salt - and available EVERYWHERE. I think the vending machines in most schools are criminal and counteract the efforts many schools have been making recently. And FGS, stop offering a choice - teenagers will choose the chips. At my school, there was one meal only (and one for veggies) and strangely, everyone ate it!

In the Netherlands there are restrictions on the advertising of sweets, etc. on TV. Not before 8pm, I think.

I do think responsibility lies with us as parents. But more than that, food and cooking can be an enjoyable, shared aspect of life, as moondog has said. I've always disliked dining rooms, I like to eat in the kitchen with the smells and preparation all there as part of it.

Sorry, this is all over the place. So many people have already made good points, sorry to repeat. Completely agree about the difficulties presented by others giving food you don't want them to have yet - I had difficulties with nursery . My biggest fear is the amount of chemicals in food which people do not recognise or understand. We need to educate children about the ingredients labels and encourage them to find alternatives. The Guardian did a great supplement last year called Chemical World, in 2 parts - food and cosmetics. It might still be online. Sorry for rambling.

foxd Sat 14-May-05 14:51:23

Bumping the message up.

Thanks for your posts. Don't think your just repeating what someone else has posted as everyone is different and has a different spin on things. Even if share a similar view post it and let me know, that is very useful to me to.
I very much appreciate all the posts provided so far, please keep them coming.

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