Pasta and pizza top children’s favourite meals chart

Little girl eating fries

Parents looking for la dolce vita at mealtime should look to Italian-inspired recipes to get their children tucking in, according to new research on children’s favourite meals of 2016.

In our first State of the Nation report looking at how children in the UK eat today and the enormity of the task facing parents to get children eating more healthily, we found pasta – particularly Spaghetti Bolognese – is children’s favourite meal to eat at home*.

Other favourites included pizza and roast dinner.

When eating out, children’s top choice was pizza, followed by burgers, chicken nuggets or dippers, and pasta. The place where the UK’s parents eat out with children most often was McDonalds (43%), followed by KFC (18%) and Pizza Hut (16%). More than one third (38%) of parents say they eat out with their children at least once a week.

Our CEO Linda Cregan says: “We’ve got a double-edged sword here, in that pasta and pizza can be brilliant vehicles for encouraging children to eat vegetables, and can be particularly good for getting children cooking from scratch.

“However, not all dishes are created equal: ready-made pasta sauces, frozen or takeaway pizza and ready meals can often be high in fat, sugar and salt so while children are enjoying pasta and pizza, we want to make sure they’re the healthiest possible versions.

“Parents tell us that giving children more chances to learn to cook is what would help them the most in getting kids eating more healthily. Government policy must listen to that: if we can inspire children with amazing pasta and pizza recipes they can make from scratch, give schools and communities the support they need to get every child cooking, we can help kids fall in love with healthier versions of the dishes they enjoy.

“But we also need the food industry to be the leader it can be. We’ve seen some exciting and innovative commitments from big food names recently, announcing plans to cut sugar in products. Where the market leaders go, others will follow – so we need to see even more brands becoming trailblazers for a brave new world in which we put children’s health first.”

In data from Kantar Worldpanel and a poll of 2001 parents by Opinium Research, we also found:

  • The vegetables children most liked to eat in the last year were fresh carrots and cucumber, frozen peas and mixed veg
  • The fruits children most liked to eat in the last year were bananas and apples
  • More than one third of parents say their children pester for products like sweets, chocolate, ice cream, crisps, fast food, and sugary soft drinks at least once a day, and it’s most likely to happen at the supermarket or while watching TV.
  • Crucially, around four out of ten parents said it’s difficult or very difficult to say no when their child is pestering for these sorts of foods.

Opinium Research conducted 2,001 online interviews with UK adults with a child aged 4-16 between 31st October and 4th November 2016.

*YouGov PLC conducted an online survey of 1130 children in Britain aged 8 to 15 between the 4th and 7th November 2016.

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