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How to Get Your Children to Try New Foods

How to Get Your Children to Try New Foods

As many parents will know, getting kids to try new ingredients can be a challenge. In a new study, HelloFresh has looked at why children may be reluctant to try new flavours and offered some tips on how parents can introduce new dishes, without making dinner time a struggle!

As many parents will know, getting kids to try new ingredients can be a challenge. In a new study, HelloFresh has looked at why children may be reluctant to try new flavours and offered some tips on how parents can introduce new dishes, without making dinner time a struggle!

The Fussiest Eaters in The UK Are Kids Aged Between 10 and 17

While it might seem as though teatime tantrums are most common amongst younger children, our survey found that kids aged between 10 and 17 are the least adventurous with their food. Little ones aged 1-4 are some of the easiest to tempt with new flavours and dishes.
University of Oxford Professor Charles Spence explains why at this age, children can become fussier with their food:
"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."

Kids Are Most Reluctant to Try Spicy, Bitter, and Earthy Foods

The flavours and ingredients that parents struggle to get their children to try are:

  • FLAVOURS: Spicy, bitter, and umami (earthy foods, such as mushrooms).
  • INGREDIENTS: Vegetables, seafood and shellfish, and fish.
    Professor Charles Spence explains more on how our genes affect our flavour preferences:

"Our biological makeup plays a role in our taste sensitivity. We are all born disliking bitter-tasting foods. This is presumably because many bitter foods are poisonous. The painful burn of chili is something that we all recoil from at birth. We need to learn to like the tingling sensation of spice, and as we increase our exposure we increasingly tend to adapt, meaning that we need more capsaicin to get the same hit. The burn of chilli can lead to endorphin release that can be pleasurable once we have experienced it."

Most Parents Introduce Their Child To A New Food Every Six Months

Giving kids time when it comes to trying new foods is essential

Most UK parents will add a new ingredient into their child's diet every 1-6 months.
11% of those surveyed admitted that they hadn't introduced a new ingredient into their child's diet for over 10 years, suggesting that some fussy eaters really do get their own way eventually!

Repetitive Groceries Are Placing UK Parents In A Cooking Comfort Zone

While picking up 'go-to' groceries can make midweek meals quicker and simpler, parents could be limiting their children's tastebuds as a result. From keeping things simple at dinner time to the factors that parents consider when it comes to trying out new cuisines, we've explored how our shopping trolleys might be the culprit behind picky eaters.

Are fussy eaters prevailing because of our weekly shopping trolleys?

  • 50.1% of adults admitted that typically, they can cook an entire week's worth of meals with between 5 and 10 ingredients. Parents with kids aged between 0-9 years old are most likely to cook a week of meals with under 10 ingredients.
  • Additionally, over 47% of respondents admitted that their weekly shop was typically between half and three quarters unchanged week on week, suggesting we're stocking up on the same essentials with little variety.
  • While 31.8% of adults surveyed said they aren't put off cooking new foods, 22% said they were reluctant to do so because of cost (22%) and whether or not the whole family would enjoy the meal (20%).

How to Encourage Your Kids to Try New Foods

UK Parents' Most Tried Tactics for Fussy Eaters

Around 32% of parents said that adding new foods on a small scale worked best, followed closely with 31% who keep the peace by ensuring that the plate has familiar ingredients on too.
Professor Charles Spence explains how a gradual approach can work:
"It is possible to build up familiarity while masking the disliked food itself, at least to begin with. The stealthy approach can help, where you start by adding a tiny amount of the food/flavour you don’t like and gradually increase how much you add each time you try the food."

There's No Fooling a Fussy Eater!

On the whole, sneakier dinnertime tactics proved less popular. Only 15% of parents said that they'd hide food on a plate or disguise new ingredients within other foods, and a further 10% cited their go-to option as cutting food into fun shapes. Commenting on the visual presentation of food, Professor Charles Spence said:
"A way to get picky eaters to try out new ingredients is by looking at how they are presented in their plate and by bringing playful elements to them. Eating with your eyes first has never been as true than with children. The colours of foods can either attract or repel us depending on what we associate with such sensory cues. You can play with ingredients that have vivid colours such as yellow (bell peppers, yellow courgettes), red or orange (tomatoes, red bell pepper, pumpkin) and green (cucumbers, lettuce, broccoli). These color palettes can often be found in toys."

Getting Kids Involved Could Be The Perfect Solution

Some of our best tips for encouraging kids to try new cuisines are focused around getting your child involved in the preparation of meals.
Taking a practical approach and getting kids involved in food preparation could make a difference on their attitude to new foods, with 24% of parents favouring this tactic. Professor Charles Spence added:
"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."

Our Top Kid-Friendly Recipes, As Recommended By Our Chefs

Chicken Piccata with Sauce and Veggies

Sticky Hoisin Chicken Thighs

Beef Pasta Bake with a Cheesy Crumb

Chicken Piccata with Sauce and Veggies

Sticky Hoisin Chicken Thighs

Beef Pasta Bake with a Cheesy Crumb

Keep The Whole Family Happy With Tasty, Exciting Meals Delivered to Your Door!

Keep The Whole Family Happy With Tasty, Exciting Meals Delivered to Your Door!

HelloFresh provides fresh food boxes, delivering everything you need to create delicious family meals at home. Inspired by global cuisines, you can try new recipes, improve your culinary skills and eat well.

HelloFresh provides fresh food boxes, delivering everything you need to create delicious family meals at home. Inspired by global cuisines, you can try new recipes, improve your culinary skills and eat well.

Try HelloFresh family meal plan!
About the Data:
Survey data is from a survey of 1,061 UK respondents conducted by HelloFresh.
Professor Charles Spence is the head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at the University of Oxford. His research focuses on how a better understanding of our different senses (such as smell, taste, sight, hearing, and touch) can have major implications for the way in which we design the food we eat.
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