Recent research has revealed that Britain is the highest consumer of ultra-processed food in Europe, with these foods making up over half our shopping basket and it’s easy to see why – processed food is everywhere and very affordable. High in salt, sugar and fat and low in nutritional value, experts believe that the abundance and consumption of these products is altering children’s palates and fuelling the obesity crisis among children.
According to Public Health England, it is now estimated that one in five children are overweight or obese when they start primary school, a number that rises to one in three by the time they leave. What’s more, 600 children and teenagers were reported to have type 2 diabetes last year, a situation unheard of 17 years ago.
Here at Kidchen we truly believe that it’s important for children to have a healthy relationship with food and to enjoy all different types of cuisines. Children must experience a wider variety of foods and ingredients because a child who has never tasted broccoli is unlikely to become an adult who enjoys eating it. It's more than just trying a Granny Smith apple or a Maris Piper potato - it’s important to expose children to different varieties of apples and potatoes, each with their own unique taste, story and appearance.
Children are favouring soft and sweet foods over bitter, sour and hard foods. Therefore we promote that children need to experience food using all five of their senses. The knowledge about food that determines someone’s future preferences happens not at a logical level but through the senses. Until you can truly know a food and decide whether you like it or not, you need to have interacted with it and this happens through the senses: touch, smell, hearing and sight as well as taste.
Offer children carrots that are grated, sliced, cooked and juiced, to investigate with their senses. Each preparation will give the child a different experience which they then describe. By arousing children’s curiosity in the food, they become familiar with it and find new ways of describing it. They become empowered and confident, realising that food can be more than just delicious or disgusting. It can be sour, crunchy, airy or spiky. This also has the added benefit of improving children’s vocabulary.
Encouraging children to experience food through the senses and become more confident in trying new things, might just help spark a change in food habits and taste preferences that have become so ingrained over the last 30 years. So that is our mission at Kidchen, to remove the fear and to perceive food as an exciting, enjoyable experience!