British toddlers are the fussiest eaters in Europe… and parents bribe them with unhealthy snacks to make them finish meals
26% of children reject their meals every dayNutritionists blame parents' tendency to use unhealthy treats as rewards

Hugo Gye


08:41 GMT, 21 January 2013



22:28 GMT, 21 January 2013

Britain's toddlers are the fussiest in Europe and more than a quarter refuse food every day, a survey revealed today.

And the bad behaviour of children in the UK may all be down to their parents – nearly half admit they try to bribe their toddlers with unhealthy snacks.

Nutritionists have criticised the use of sweet treats as a reward, saying it encourages young children to be more picky about what they eat.

Fussy: British children are more likely to reject food than those in other countries (picture posed by model)

Fussy: British children are more likely to reject food than those in other countries (picture posed by model)

In total, 69 per cent of children under five sometimes refuse to eat what they are given, according to the poll.

That is more than in any other European country surveyed, with French and Spanish toddlers proving particularly open-minded at mealtimes.

Moreover, 26 per cent of young Britons throw a tantrum over food every day, and 13 per cent reject some of their food at every single meal.

British toddlers' fussy eating is taking a heavy toll on their parents – more than half of UK mothers say they are 'frustrated' by their children's eating habits.

A significant minority are even worse affected, as 12 per cent admit that mealtime struggles make them feel like a 'bad mother'.

Other Europeans are far more relaxed about fussy eating – just three per cent of Dutch mothers question their parenting skills over the issue, and 37 per cent of mothers in Italy say they are 'not bothered' about what their children eat.

Fast food: Mothers in the UK often bribe their children with unhealthy snacks

Fast food: Mothers in the UK often bribe their children with unhealthy snacks


1) United Kingdom – 69%

2) Netherlands – 63%

=3) Germany – 58%

=3) Sweden – 58%

5) France – 54%

6) Spain – 40%

Child nutrionist Carrie Ruxton said: 'Fussy eating is a daily occurrence for most families and we now know it's prevalent in the UK – more children throw food here than in any of the other European countries polled.

'This behaviour is taking its toll on mums, but it's important to remember that shouting, bribing with sweet treats or TV only tends to make things worse.

'A calm approach to mealtimes, using encouragement, stickers or special playtime as rewards, is more effective.'

Nonetheless, 39 per cent of British mothers confess that they give their children sweets, biscuits, chocolate and fizzy drinks as a reward for behaving themselves or eating properly.

By comparison, in France only 13 per cent of mothers use the same tactics to persuade their children to finish meals.

Perhaps it should be no surprise to see the UK faring so poorly in the child nutrition stakes, as the survey also suggested that British parents are rarely given a thorough education on the topic.

Around 70 per cent of mothers told researchers they had never received guidance on their children's nutritional needs, and nearly a fifth do not know whether or not their toddlers are overweight.

The survey of 1,005 British mothers of children under five was carried out by, and compared with a poll of more thn 1,500 parents from France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Sweden and the Netherlands.

A previous study revealed last month that three fifths of three-year-olds are already hooked on sugary snacks, with many parents blaming themselves for over-indulging their children's demands.