Children like fish they can choose

Are you struggling to get your children to eat fish? The advice from scientists at Nofima is to let them choose the fish meal. Children who get to choose the fish for dinner like fish more than those who do not get any choice.

Contact person
Portrettbilde av Themistoklis Altintzoglou
Themistoklis Altintzoglou

Senior Scientist
Phone: +47 476 54 471
themis.altintzoglou@nofima.no

Contact person
Portrettbilde av Aase Vorre Skuland

Norwegian health authorities recommend that children eat fish for dinner two to three times a week, but many children do not do this.

According to parents, there are various reasons for this, including that their children do not like fish, which may lead to conflicts around the meal. Children are often served a main course that they are expected to eat, whether they like it or not.

There is no previous research on the role that choice plays in whether children like fish or not.

In June, 130 year six and seven pupils in Stavanger were invited to dinner at the food research institute Nofima. Half of the pupils were served a fish dinner without getting to chose the fish species, while the others could choose between salmon and cod.

The children ate in a canteen with their classmates, and afterwards were asked to evaluate if they liked the fish they were served. The children who had chosen cod or salmon rated the fish more positively than those who did not get a choice.

There was no difference in gender, age or how often they normally eat fish.

After dinner the children underwent an “independence test” comprising several questions that revealed how independent they were. The results pointed to the fact that the children who, according to the test, were independent and able to make their own choices, enjoyed the fish less if they did not get a choice.

“The explanation may be that children think positively about their own, independent choices. The results also indicate that children may like fish better if they are involved in deciding what they will have for dinner,” says Scientist Themis Altintzoglou.

“Consequently, it’s important that parents give their children the opportunity to choose between several healthy options, such as choosing between different vegetables and fish products.”

A healthy diet during childhood provides the foundation for good food habits and prevents chronic diet-related diseases.

The objective of this project is to gather knowledge in order to better understand what influences children’s food choices, so that parents and the authorities can receive advice on how to get children to eat healthier food.

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