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Could cooking with children reduce fussy eating habits?

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Fussy eater Food preferences Fish Seafood Cooking Meal kits

Cooking with children might be key to increasing liking of 'problem foods' such as fish and seafood for fussy eaters, according to ongoing Norwegian research.

Fussy eaters are problematic for parents and food makers alike.

Products that are high in salt, fat and sugar might be an ‘easy win’ for manufacturers in getting kids to like them but with childhood obesity rates rising and consumers looking closely at ingredient lists, demand for healthy food for kids is increasing.

Siril Alm is a researcher at Nofima Food Research Institute in Norway investigating how to encourage children to eat something many kids don’t like: fish and seafood.

Alm believes the food children eat at an early age greatly influences their eating habits later in life. Previous studies have also shown that children are more likely to enjoy eating foods they have prepared themselves. So why are the cooking experiences we tend to share with children usually centred on baking sugary foods, from cookies kits to muffin mixes?

Children should learn to cook healthy dinners rather than to bake muffins,”​ says Alm. “Skills such as chopping, boiling and frying food are more important to learn than stirring and cut dough.”

Alm worked with a company, Iver og Evne, to make picture cards for children. The cards show which equipment and ingredients are needed, as well as a step-by-step illustrated instructions.

Even though it is too early in the project to draw conclusions from the research, Alm said she has seen one “positive surprise​”: people find cooking together fun.

So what does this mean for manufacturers? An opportunity for meal kits? Products that ‘inspire’ consumers to cook might be enough.

“Many associate fish dinners with boiled cod and potatoes, and they think that seafood is both boring and time consuming,” ​says Alm. “To increase seafood consumption, young people need more inspiration as to how they can prepare tasty and quick seafood dishes.”

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