Only one in six mothers cook from scratch on a daily basis, as they have no time and lack confidence in the kitchen, according to a survey.
Instead children are being fed a diet of chicken nuggets, pizza and sausages as parents say they are quick to put on the table - and they know their children will eat them.
Food campaigners believe today’s grandparents must shoulder some of the blame for failing to teach their own offspring how to cook back in the 70s, 80s and 90s.
The survey found only 16 per cent cooked a meal from scratch every day. More than half cooked from basic ingredients four times a week or less. A quarter only did so once a week or less frequently, commissioned by the UK Department of Health’s Change4Life Be Food Smart campaign.
Pre-prepared foods tend to be higher in salt, fat and sugar than those made from raw ingredients - because food manufacturers know that to sell they need to appeal to lots of taste buds.
Annabel Karmel, author of numerous books on cooking for children, said many mothers lacked confidence as they were never taught to cook.
She said: “Cooking from scratch takes a little confidence, but a lot don’t know how to cook.
“Their mums and dads didn’t cook, while cooking in schools was scrapped.”
But she argued that pleading lack of time - as 71 per cent of respondents did - was a poor excuse. What mothers needed was inspiration and organisation, she said.
“You can prepare a good meal in 15 minutes. Rather than chicken nuggets, you can have marinated chicken under the grill,” she suggested.
Frantic parents should use shortcuts like pre-chopped vegetables, boil-in-the-bag rice and pre-cooked noodles, she said.
She believed a little hunger did wonders for a child’s appetite - and their likelihood to try something new.
“We are a nation of snackers, so children don’t eat so well at meals,” she said.
“French kids don’t snack, and they eat proper meals.”
Parents often gave up when “fussy” children refused to touch unfamiliar foods, meaning they stuck on average to just seven meals, she said.
The Change4Life campaign has launched a ‘Meal Mixer’ booklet, available on its website, with low-cost recipes cooked from scratch.
Stephen Adams Telegraph.co.uk