Parents Are Fibbing About Cooking For Their Children, Exclusive New Research Reveals

Nearly a fifth of mums and dads are feeling the pressure about feeding their kids.
thriving families

Parents are lying about what they cook for their children because they feel guilty about their kids’ meals, worrying new research reveals today.

Nearly a fifth (18%) of mums and dads have fibbed about what they make for their children’s meals, a new study conducted by YouGov for The Huffington Post UK shows.

The exclusive poll, released as part of HuffPost UK’s month-long project, Thriving Families, reveals that 43% of parents feel under pressure to cook healthily for their children - and almost one in 10 said they lied about what they made because they knew they should be making healthier meals.

Almost 40% also said they felt pushed to be more adventurous with their food choices.

Jamie Oliver, who is guest-editing HuffPost UK for the launch of Thriving Families, said: “The results mean we still have a very long way to go when it comes to inspiring parents to cook better food for their kids.”

Jamie Oliver is guest-editing The Huffington Post UK as part of our Thriving Families series
Jamie Oliver is guest-editing The Huffington Post UK as part of our Thriving Families series
Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

”The fact that 18% of parents admit to telling fibs about what they feed their children suggests that there are many parents who know they should be cooking more nutritious meals but, for whatever reason, feel that they can’t,” Oliver continued.

“More concerning still, is that only 21% of parents are cooking from scratch every day, which means that the majority of kids are still eating processed food. When you read figures like this, it’s hardly a surprise. I believe it’s a parent or guardian’s duty to help teach their kids about food.”

The research found that over a fifth of parents (23%) said that the ever-changing cost of food was part of the problem when it came to preparing healthy food.

According to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data the average UK household spends £58.80 on food and non-alcoholic drinks. This is compared with an average of £74.80 on transport and £68.80 on recreation and culture.

But lack of time is also a big problem for many parents.

On average, nearly a third of those surveyed (32%) said that not having enough time prevented them from making healthy meals for their children. Among parents aged between 35 and 44, this rose to 40% - something which could be attributable to struggling to find a work-life balance.

Registered nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed told HuffPost UK that time is a “really common” issue for families.

She said: “We live in a very different society today and, with both parents often out at work and little time at home, finding time for meals and food prep can be tough.

“However, food is such an important and central part of our lives and I always encourage people to try to dedicate just a little more time to nutrition and lifestyle - which can support both our emotional and physical health.

“With clever planning, budgeting and organisation, healthy meals are achievable for most people. There are some fantastic recipes out there with a mix of complexities and some of which are very quick to create too.”

Some parents said that the cost of food was an obstacle to making healthy meals
Some parents said that the cost of food was an obstacle to making healthy meals
JGI/Jamie Grill via Getty Images

Stirling-Reed said she felt families needed more support, adding that this could help avoid embarrassment for parents and the feeling they may need to lie about what they are cooking.

This shows perhaps that many parents are in fact aware about what foods we should and shouldn’t be giving to children,” she said.

“I feel parents need more support and that we also need a collaborative approach from all sectors - government, health care, policy makers, industry - in order to help change behaviours.

“This can help ensure that parents don’t have to feel guilty or embarrassed about what they feed their children, and, importantly that the diet of our next generation improves at the same time,” Stirling-Reed added.

Convenience is also an issue, with just a fifth (21%) of parents cooking meals from scratch every day, and another fifth (20%) only cooking from scratch once a week or less.

The 2016 Modern Families Index showed that around 75% of parents relied on ready meals because of work-related time constraints at least occasionally and in some cases more often.

Takeaways and ready meals are often resorted to by busy parents
Takeaways and ready meals are often resorted to by busy parents
Howard Kingsnorth via Getty Images

As well as ready meals, the rise of takeaway culture is also likely to have contributed to this - and no surprise when the number of takeaway outlets rose by 45% between 1990 and 2008. The increase was greatest in areas that had the highest level of deprivation, according to a 2015 University of Cambridge study.

With the increasing popularity of food delivery services and apps, takeaway food is more accessible than ever before.

Almost a third (29%) of parents also said that fussy eating was another obstacle to making their children healthy meals.

This summer The Huffington Post UK is spearheading an initiative helping families thrive, with a focus on parent wellbeing, the challenges facing stay-at-home and working parents, friendships and navigating the landscape of modern parenting beyond the 2.4. To kickstart the campaign, Jamie Oliver will be guest editor on 15 July 2016, bringing a focus on feeding healthy families.

We’ll be sharing stories and blogs with the hashtag #ThrivingFamilies and we’d like you to do the same. If you’d like to use our blogging platform to share your story, email to get involved. Jamie’s new cookbook Super Food Family Classics, published by Penguin, is on sale at £26.


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