Children’s ready meals hinder healthy eating habits

A new report* from researchers at Edinburgh University have found that the healthiest children are those who eat the same food as their parents. They also warn that the trend towards children’s ready-meals is leaving some children deficient in key nutrients.

Dr Valeria Skafida and her team at the Centre for Population health Sciences at Edinburgh looked at the general health of 2,000 five-year-olds and found eating the same food had a greater impact on young children’s health than any other factor, including social background and snacking between meals.

Skafida says that children’s menus in restaurants and children’s ready meals often lead to a nutritional “dumbing down”. A large part of the problem is that by ‘self-selecting’ the one or two ready meals they like best (and will eat), children are severely reducing the range of foods – and therefore the vitamins, minerals and essential fats they require – they are exposed to.

* The family meal panacea: exploring how different aspects of family meal occurrence, meal habits and meal enjoyment relate to young children’s diets by Dr Valeria Skafida is published by Wiley