Most parents with kids 24 months and younger are confident that they’re feeding their children an age-appropriate and nutritious diet, according to new survey data from International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation. Even so, parents still grapple with uncertainty about what to feed their kids, especially during critical transition periods.

Parents have their children’s nutrition in mind

Parents want their kids to eat a nutritious diet, and often report that their children have healthier diets than they do themselves. Feeding their kids the right amount of vegetables, protein, and new foods is a key goal that takes precedence over other priorities like avoiding crankiness and even providing food that their kid enjoys.

Setbacks for parents with young children

Even with the best intentions, introducing new foods into a baby’s diet can be daunting for parents, especially when it comes to time, cost, and natural fears. Many parents who participated in IFIC’s survey reported major concerns about easing children into new diets.

  • Choking hazard — 55%
  • Allergic reaction — 38%
  • Introducing foods at the right time — 24%
  • Having the time to make healthy food — 22%
  • Introducing the right foods — 21%
  • Being able to afford healthy food — 21%

Transition periods appear to be the times most riddled with confusion. For example, 20% of parents expect to introduce baby food at 12 months, but most start much earlier. Similar gaps exist for staples like solid foods, vegetables, fruit, cheese, and yogurt.

Where parents get their nutrition information

The majority of parents read food labels when shopping for their kids. Nutritional value was cited as “very important” by 62% of respondents when asked about their purchasing decisions.  

But when it comes to deciding what to feed their child and when — two critical concerns — parents tend to rely overwhelmingly on one source — their pediatrician. Only two in ten parents use guidelines on food packaging or nutritional labels to inform their decisions.

Closing the gap

Food manufacturers have a wide-open opportunity to become a trusted source of nutrition information, especially for parents going through stressful and confusing times. Responding to parents’ concerns and desires about children’s diets can help position food companies for success, regardless of the brand. Only 23% of parents say brand familiarity is very important to their purchasing decisions.

Here are some ideas for food companies aiming to catch the constantly-wandering parental eye:

  • Clearly label all foods with nutrition information like:
    • Servings of vegetables and fruits
    • Grams of macronutrients
    • Grams of added sugar
    • Potential allergens
  • Promote strategies for parents to feed their children nutritious diets, even when they’re on a tight budget. Distribute information via:
    • Food packaging
    • Social media and websites
    • In-store leaflets and ads

Download the full study to learn more.