Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Spill the beans - what do you think about kid's food?

I've been asked for my views on kid's food for some market research.  I'm relishing the opportunity (sorry, I promise there won't be too many food jokes).  Seriously, I think we should seize the chance whenever companies ask for our opinions.  If you have bugbears then this is the time to share them.

I'd really like to get your input as well to feed back, so if you have a burning issue, then please use the comments section to get it off your chest.

I'll give my thoughts here on the criteria they are interested in, so please feel free to add yours - get your voice heard.

How do you shop for kid's food?

We do all our food shopping about once a fortnight, with top-ups of perishable items in between.  Ruby comes with us on the main food shop and tends to give her input about what she wants!  That's not to say she always gets her own way.  The smaller shops I do on my own otherwise I suspect I'd come out with a basket full of treats.

What are your priorities?

I never bought manufactured baby foods, so try to resist the temptation of buying food aimed specifically at kids now.  We choose normal 'adult' food and ingredients for meals I can make from scratch that the whole family will enjoy together.  As we try to eat together every evening, I don't want to get into making several different dishes for different people.

The priorities for my daughter are the same as for us - good quality; nutritious; tasty food.

I'm a stay-at-home mum so in that respect am lucky I have the time to cook from scratch and don't tend to buy pre-prepared or ready made food.

What do you worry about?

I don't really.  As I make meals myself, I know what levels of salt and sugar etc they contain.  If I were buying pre-prepared foods, and with some processed foods like ham; cheese and bread I do check the levels of salt and sugar.  I try to avoid things (particularly treats) which contain high levels of E numbers, as I have noticed changes in behaviour when Ruby eats certain sweets and drinks certain drinks.

Due to a constant tummy ache, we've been trying Ruby on a diet with no cow's milk for the past month or so.  It has had a great effect, but it does mean I'm more conscious about checking labels for 'hidden' ingredients.  Hers is just probably a mild intolerance, so it's not the end of the world if she eats something with a little butter or milk in, but it has made me sympathise with how difficult it must be for parents of children with severe allergies.  I think clearer labelling all round would be a good thing.

What do you look for?

I prefer to give Ruby 'adult' food.  We eat out a fair amount so I don't really want her in the habit of only eating something if it's in the shape of a cartoon character.  I think this will only bring problems in the long-term.

What are the most important things to you when it comes to kids and nutrition?

Through what we've taught at home and what Ruby's learning at nursery, she is aware of the importance of nutrition and what various things do for the body.  This helps lots if I'm able to say 'this has lots of calcium in so your bones and your teeth will grow healthy and strong' for example.  I think the earlier your children understand and begin to take some responsibility for their own diet, the better.

Which brands get it right?

I like Organix because I know they get the taste of their food spot on.  There's nothing more annoying than being coerced into buying a kiddie brand by your child in the supermarket, only for them to take one bite and declare 'I don't like that!'

They are also a brand I trust, have clear labelling and quality ingredients.  We are also fans of Innocent drinks for the same reasons.  I'm not big on gimmicks or promotions, but at least the ones that Innocent do are engaging and educational - like the alphabet magnets and the recent seeds giveaways.

What do brands do/say that annoy you?

It annoys me when a perfectly fine product gets 'rebranded' to appeal to children.  I'm thinking of apples which are packaged up in bags emblazoned with Disney characters, or cheese which is packed into individual child-sized portions with excessive packaging and gimmicky labels.

I can see how this might be helpful for parents of fussy eaters, but it annoys the hell out of me personally - an apple is an apple!  Why pay more for smaller things??

Where do treats/puddings fit in?  What are the challenges there?

Puddings where not something we generally had, but since Ruby has started eating meals at nursery a couple of times a week, she's been conditioned into thinking that every meal is rounded off by dessert - she sometimes asks for pudding after breakfast!  I'm not a strict parent, I'm quite happy to give puddings as long as the main meal has been eaten.  Sometimes it will be fruit; sometimes yoghurt or ice cream or sometimes something naughtier!  All things in moderation I say!

And...what do your kids say/think?  Do they comment on their diet?  Do they ask for certain things?  Do they know about nutrition?

She does sometimes surprise me.  We were making food for a little Jubilee party recently and she looked in horror at all the cakes: "but mummy, we need some fruit - we can't just eat cake!!"  That made me giggle.  Generally Ruby is quite good.  She does have a sweet tooth and often asks for sweets or chocolate, but she does know it's not good for her and that she should only have a little.  With the cow's milk free diet, she's taken a much keener interest in what ingredients are in certain products and she's having to try new things like goat and buffalo milk, new cheeses and soya products.

She is heavily influenced by advertising though, and we do sometimes have supermarket battles when she demands a certain type of sugar-laden cereal just because it has a crappy plastic toy in.  Let me add that to the 'what do companies do that annoy you' section...

So, those are my personal opinions, but we're all different and have different priorities.  What are your views?  Please leave them in the comments box and I'll be sure to pass them on.

Disclaimer:  I will receive a small financial reward for my involvement in this project.  Thanks for your time and input.


  1. We all generally eat the same food - my kids (aged 6 & 9)know about nutrition and heath but also about things in moderation. We do the shopping without them (it'd take FOREVER otherwise) and take account of things they don't like but we do encourage them to try everything at least once. My priorities are around health and cost.

  2. My children are young adults, but I well remember the difficulties of balancing taste, nutrition and cost etc for little ones. In our house meals are very tricky, I'm a vegetarian (attempting to loose weight) My husband is a gluten intolerant who doesn't really like vegetables and our daughter is 16 and eats almost anything. However I am very conscious that she still needs a balanced diet to keep her healthy, particularly as she dances 3 evenings a week and is in the middle of revision and exams.
    Like you we have always fed our children adult food rather than novelty things and always talked to them about what they need to eat to be healthy. I'm proud to say that even now she is old enough to make her own decision she still insists on porridge or weetabix for breakfast, usually with fruit on and prefers wholemeal bread to white. Although also secretly proud that she is as much of a chocoholic as I am!
    I think encouraging the children to be part of the whole process from selecting recipes, shopping and cooking is always the best way to teach them healthy eating habits and skills for adult life

    1. Wow, tricky balancing act in your house then!

      Thanks for your comments, really really interesting. Sounds like you can be very proud of your daughter :0)

  3. Breakfast time, I keep a large selection of cereals that they can choose from. I'll even do pancakes or fried egg if thats what they want before school.

    We generally too eat the same meals that I cook from scratch, though one is not keen on spag bowl, so the mince part is left off the plate, but she is given something like cherry tomatoes instead. Neither like curry or paella, which I do, some I will cook them something different then. i try not to buy ready meals, about as far as it goes is the occassional pizza as I worry about what is in there. I prefer to know what goes into my meals.

    Puddings are eaten in our house after dinner but we wait until we have all finished the dinner part. It can be a yoghurt, pancakes or ice cream, and occassionally I'll bake something like apple crumble (though that depends in the weather and if I remembered cooking apples!).

    I do not take the children shopping as it is easier to do it without them as I can whizz or dawdle as I fancy. I will listen to them if they ask for a particular meal and cook it or something from the shop like a particular snack; though if it is normally something expensive, but maybe on offer, I may buy it.

    If they wish for a snack between meals or after school, I try to stear them towards the fruit before they have a 'treat'.

    For me its balancing how much I spend to the health benefits for the girls and me.

  4. Hi Samantha, thanks so much for your time, great comment x

  5. Hi Liz, though my two are grown up now, their food upbringing was (apart from being vegetarian) almost identical to Ruby's. I can never understand why any parent would want to cook different meals for different members of the family. (Of course I do understand when food intolerances etc are involved, but most meals can be adapted to suit all). My two now have healthy appetites, are not fussy and will eat anything put in front of them. Unlike some I know who were brought up on chicken nuggets and smiley faces and will now eat nothing else. Shame on you food companies, but really as parent's we do have a choice. Just say no.

    1. and I do not know HOW that rogue apostrophe in parents got in there (aaaargh!)

    2. Thanks Molly, it's reassuring to hear that this approach may result in Ruby having a healthy approach to food when she's grown up :0)



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