Parents dread family mealtimes – because their children won’t finish their meal, refuse to stay at the table for long, and complain about the food on offer


Research found 35 per cent of the 2,000 mums and dads polled said sitting down to dinner with everyone was a ‘stressful’ experience.
And 41 per cent struggle to enjoy their own meal because their child is fussy with food.
As a result, one in six would often prefer to have a sitting for the children first and eat their own meal in peace later on.
But more than a fifth claim it doesn’t help that they aren’t confident in their own ability to serve up a meal everyone will like.
While 54 per cent wish they had help in the kitchen, so they could serve up quick, tasty and healthy meals the family were guaranteed to enjoy.
John Lewis Partnership, which commissioned the study, is joining forces with the charity Home-Start UK to launch Healthy Happy Homes – a programme designed to help families improve their health and wellbeing.
Joanne Lunn, a nutritionist for the Partnership, said: “We know mealtimes can be really stressful for families, with parents worried they aren’t getting the balance of foods right or that fussy eating will get in the way of eating healthily.
“Small changes to how families approach meals can make a big difference.
“We’ve shared some of our top tips with Home-Start volunteers, such as getting children involved in meal planning and preparation; letting children select their own food from a communal bowl or serving sauces on the side.
“Easy changes like this really can make mealtimes more enjoyable for everyone.”
The study also found feeding the children too much sugar, not enough vegetables and a meal which lacks variety are among the top concerns parents have.
While 56 per cent struggle to get their child to eat a healthy balance of fruit, vegetables, protein and carbohydrates.
Nearly three quarters (73 per cent) of children have even been known to ask for a takeaway over a home cooked meal.
Vegetables are considered the hardest food to get a child to eat (42 per cent), followed by proteins such as fish, eggs and lean meat (22 per cent) and healthy carbs such as brown bread or wholegrain rice (17 per cent).
Sprouts, mushrooms, olives and onions are the foods children are most likely to fuss over at dinner.
While others will pick out or refuse to eat prawns, broccoli, cous cous and salmon.
In a bid to keep the children happy, half of parents find it easier to pull something out of the freezer for convenience, 29 per cent serve up sweets and chocolate and 28 per cent will opt for a ready meal.
And to get the whole family eating well, those prepared to serve different meals at different sittings will often cook up to three meals a night to provide food everyone will like and finish.
But 41 per cent believe with more time and money, they could do a better job of producing more balanced evening meals.
While 39 per cent of those polled via OnePoll want better access to recipes and 36 per cent would welcome use of online cooking guides.
Peter Grigg, Chief Executive of Home-Start UK, said: “This fantastic project will equip our volunteers with practical advice so they can support families to be healthier and happier.
“By building the confidence of our volunteers around healthy food, safer sleep and family finances, the programme will provide a real boost to family wellbeing and help parents with the everyday challenges that all families face.”
The Healthy Happy Homes programme kicks off with a focus on food and nutrition, with further activity supporting safer sleep and family finances coming later this year.


1.            Your child is fussy
2.            Complaints about the food on offer
3.            Your child won’t finish their meals
4.            Your child wants to leave the table
5.            Your child refuses to come to the table when called
6.            Children fall out with each other
7.            Your child eats in a messy way
8.            Everyone insists on watching TV
9.            No one can sit still for long
10.         Everyone sits down at different times


1.            Sprouts
2.            Mushrooms
3.            Olives
4.            Onions
5.            Prawns
6.            Broccoli
7.            Cous cous
8.            Salmon
9.            Peppers
10.         Tomatoes
11.         Lettuce
12.         Tuna
13.         Peas
14.         Carrots
15.         Cod
16.         Eggs
17.         Gammon ham
18.         Beef steak
19.         Beef mince
20.         Chicken drumsticks

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