University of Hertfordshire

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-332
Number of pages11
JournalCritical Public Health
Volume26
Issue3
Early online date1 Oct 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2016

Abstract

Family meals, as acts of domestic food provisioning, are shaped by the competing influences of household resources, food preferences and broader cultural norms around dietary practices. The place of children's food tastes in family meal practices is particularly complex. Food tastes stand in a reciprocal relationship with family food practices: being both an influence on and a product of them. This paper explores how parents think about and respond to their children's food preferences in relation to family meal practices. A qualitative study was conducted with residents of Sandwell, UK. The results presented here are based on the responses of nine key participants and their families. Photo elicitation methods generated participant food photo diaries that were used to inform subsequent interviews. A thematic analysis revealed two contrasting ways of incorporating children's tastes into family meal routines: (1) 'what we fancy' and (2) 'regulated'. The former entails repeatedly consulting and negotiating with children over what to cook for each meal. It is supported by the practical strategies of multiple and individually modified meals. The latter relies upon parents developing a repertoire of meals that 'work' for the family. This repertoire is performed as a series of 'set meals' in which any requests for variation are strongly resisted. Our findings add to the small body of literature on household food provisioning and suggest that achieving the idealised ritual of the family meal is underpinned by a range of values and strategies, some of which may run counter to health messages about nutrition.

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