UK teens fussier with their food than toddlers

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UK teenagers are fussier with their food than toddlers, a recent survey by HelloFresh has found. 

The meal box delivery company asked 1,013 respondents for their insights on everything from the foods that triggered the most mealtime tantrums, to discovering the go-to tactics for challenging picky eaters.

Surprisingly, results show that kids aged between one and four years old were the most adventurous eaters, followed closely by little ones between five and nine years old. Pre-teens and teenagers aged between 10 and 17 were found to be the fussiest with their food. 

Of course, parents play an important role in developing and widening their kids’ dietary choices from a young age. On average, UK parents add a new food to their children’s diets every six months or sooner.

Shockingly, 11% of parents we surveyed said that they hadn’t introduced a new food into their kids diets in over ten years. 

50% of parents surveyed said that over a typical week, they are able to cook meals using less than 10 ingredients, and that month on month, 47% said that the contents of their grocery shop tends to be around half unchanged. 

There are certain ingredients and flavours that simply don’t make the cut for parents’ when shopping for a picky eater. The survey found that spicy, bitter, and umami (earthy) flavoured foods were the hardest to get kids to try. The ingredients that caused the most table tantrums were vegetables, seafood and shellfish. 

Food scientist and University of Oxford Professor Charles Spence explains more on how picky eaters form their habits, and how parents can help to tackle this reluctance around new foods:

“Food, and what a child chooses to eat and, more importantly, what they choose not to eat, is often said to be one of the few areas of life that they are able to control. 

Hence, around 13 years old is likely to be when kids are establishing their individual identity and hence food fussiness may be part of that.

One of the best ways to like new foods is to build up exposure away from the dinner table. By, for example, being involved in meal selection, watching dinner being cooked, or even by using vegetables in play. Sensory familiarity starts to build up without the pressure of having to eat. And thereafter it becomes that much easier to taste the foods and to like them.”

Parents might feel like they have a challenge on their hands when it comes to picky eaters, so HelloFresh has provided additional expert tips and kid-friendly meal ideas to try here.