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40% of children have ‘unhealthy diets’ but parents feel powerless

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Four in ten parents admit their children have an unhealthy diet – but tantrums and stubbornness are standing in the way of healthier food, a survey has found. Researchers found a large number of mums and dads believe their offspring could do with eating more fruit, drinking more water or ditching fatty treats, but most are at a complete loss as to how to get their children to comply.

Four in ten admit they have completely given up trying to improve what their child eats and drinks.

Almost half of parents admitted to caving in to their children’s constant requests for sugary drinks, cakes or chocolate in exchange for a quiet life, with an average of two rows or tantrums a week caused by food and drink.

The study, by SodaStream, also found that more than a quarter of parents have been so concerned about their children’s diet that they have spoken to a doctor or health visitor.

And another four in ten admitted their child’s eating and drinking habits cause disagreements with their partner as they try to agree on the best way to deal with it.

Fiona Hope, managing director of SodaStream UK, which commissioned the research, said:

“Encouraging children to have a healthy diet is one of the biggest battles parents face when it comes to raising a child.

“But it’s worrying to see so many mums and dads have reached a point where they don’t know what else to do to try and encourage their children to drink more water or eat more healthily.

“Ensuring that children get the right nutrition is so important, but not drinking enough water or drinks that are high in sugar can have a huge impact on children’s learning and health.

“Children lose water faster than adults so they need to drink more to replace it, which can be a struggle for parents.

“However, by making food and drink fun, encouraging kids to help in the preparation, providing variety and giving less sugary alternatives can help to convince children that healthier doesn’t have to mean boring or less tasty.”

The study of 2,000 parents found that 43% know their kids have an unhealthy diet, with eight in 10 saying their offspring could improve what they eat or drink.

Tucking into too many sugary or fatty treats like cakes and chocolate is a parent’s biggest worry about their children’s diet, followed by not eating enough fruit and vegetables.

Another 45% said their children don’t have the recommended daily intake of water, with one in 20 claiming that their kids drink no water whatsoever.

And 20% said their children only sip on fizzy drinks full of sugar, with 44% of parents facing complaints from their little ones if they try to give them water to drink.

But the study found that 47% of parents worry that cutting out sugary drinks and fatty foods altogether would mean their children simply end up not eating or drinking at all.

70% of parents even feel they have tried everything possible to encourage their children to drink more water or tuck into healthier food.

Hiding food they don’t like in a meal that they do like is the most popular way to try and get children to eat healthier, followed by refusing to let kids down from the table until they have had a certain amount of food or water.

Using games like the ‘aeroplane’ technique and pretending the food and drink is something they do usually like are also on the list, whilst almost half of parents tell their kids that carrots will help them to see in the dark and sugary drinks will make their teeth fall out.

Parents have also tried bribing them with chocolate, cakes or even money and threatened to take away a favourite toy or access to games consoles and computer.

Top ten ways to try and encourage a healthy diet

1. Hidden food in a dish they will eat (e.g. extra vegetables in a lasagne)
2. Refused to let them down from the table until they eat or drink a certain item or amount
3. Encouraged them to help make their food or drink so it is fun for them
4. Playing games like the aeroplane or train
5. Pretended the food or drink is something else you know they will like
6. Told them they can have a cake or chocolate treat if they eat or drink a certain item
7. Tell them it will turn them into something they want (e.g. The Green Giant, help them see in the dark etc)
8. Distracted them by telling a story or playing with their favourite toy
9. Bribed them with money or treats
10. Threatened to remove toys or games consoles etc