Child-friendly meals or family pot – what’s healthier?

Do you dish out ‘child-friendly’ meals rather than eating from the same family pot at meal times?

Childrens healthy meals with parents

In recent years supermarket shelves and restaurants have included an increasing number of  ‘child friendly’ snacks, meals and menus. However a large study of family meal times by The  University of Edinburgh shows that eating the same meal as their parents is a more nutritious option for children in the long term.

The research suggests that ‘child-meals’ are more likely to be nutritionally inferior. Author of the study, Valeria Skafida, said: “Offering separate ‘children’s food’ for a main meal may often result in children missing out nutritionally. This is already known to be the case with kid’s menus in restaurants, so children are best off eating the same foods as their parents.”

What does healthy eating look like?

  • Eat together as a family if possible
  • Everyone eating the same meal
  • Main meals are important, so reduce snacking
  • Eat meals in an area designated for dining rather than in front of the TV in a living room or bedroom
  • Make meal times pleasant, talk, catch up on what your child has been doing at nursery or school.

Not eating a main meal during the day, frequent snacking between meals, eating in the living room or bedroom, and an “unpleasant atmosphere” during mealtimes were all weakly associated with poorer diets.

About the study

The study looked at the eating hapits of 2332 children aged just under five in Scotland. Data was collected by the Scottish Government’s Growing up in Scotland study. The research was carried out by Valeria Skafida, a medical sociologist at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships at Edinburgh University. You can find out more about the study in Valeria’s blog.

For a healthy family meal that everyone including the kids will enjoy check out our veggie chilli one pot recipe.

Source: Centre for Research on Families and Relationships

Image: Philcampgell @ flickr

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