I’M preparing lunch for the six-year-old daughter of a friend of mine. “Oh, she doesn’t like brown bread, do you have white bread with the crusts removed? Oh, she doesn’t like round burgers, could you cut them into squares. Oh, she doesn’t like that shade of sweetcorn, do you have sweetcorn exactly the same shade as Big Bird?” How on earth did we get here? When did eating go so wrong?

The answer, as it often does, lies with the children we used to be. I grew up in the 70s in Aberdeen with parents and grandparents who were made out of granite and who worked to the principle that asking children what they wanted was a bad idea. Food was put on the plate. You ate it or you were punished. Food or violence. Your choice, you little brat.

I am not necessarily saying this was a totally good idea. The plates of food served to me as a child were, almost without exception, terrible. Everything was brown. Or white. Everything was cooked for two days, or sometimes three just to make sure. And everything was based on dead animals, sliced, chopped or mashed. The unremittingly terrible 70s menu is the main reason I turned vegetarian.

But I wonder if everything that the children of the 70s, and their stomachs, were forced to go through is also responsible for where we are now. People in their 40s and 50s grew up with no choice about what they ate, so they’ve resolved to be different with their children. Whatever darling doesn’t want, darling doesn’t get. Dinnertime is now a multiple choice for the self-centred.

While children are at home, none of this matters too much, but when the darlings go out into the world, the consequences are more serious. You may have seen the story the other day about the restaurant owner who was complaining about the complicated dietary requirements of her diners. Vikki Wood, who runs the Wee Restaurant in North Queensferry, said it was her biggest challenge. “It’s killing the catering industry,” she said.

Other restaurant owners agree. The owners of Delivino cafe in Crieff said: “For each genuine customer request there must be at least ten playing at it.” The chef Craig Millar has also criticised diners who falsely claim to have allergies. It’s not entirely clear whether these people realise they are making false claims, they’ve simply been pandered to for years and their choices have hardened into “allergies” or “intolerances”; self-centredness has become an eating disorder.

The restaurant owners aren’t denying the existence of genuine allergies. They also recognise there has been a massive growth in veganism. That is not the problem. The problem is people who think they are allergic, or vegan, but aren’t: they’re just picky, or fussy, or attention seeking.

There are also obviously people who think saying you’re vegan is cool. Vikki Wood and the other restaurant owners say it’s not uncommon for diners to assert they’re vegan and then order a crème brûlée or a cappuccino. So what’s going on? Food as posturing? Food as a hashtag? A bit of all of that I suspect. I’ve certainly encountered people who tell me they are veggie or vegan even though they eat fish or dairy.

Vikki Wood’s solution would be to require diners to produce a doctor’s letter proving your allergies, but I think that’s a bit much. Instead, a bit of recalibration is required by parents to ensure that their children really understand what’s going on. Indulged, difficult children grow up to be indulged, difficult adults and only parents can put a stop to it.

Just so you know, this is not an argument for a return to the 70s – in many ways, the way we eat now and the choice we have is a great improvement on 40 years ago. But what I would suggest is that the best approach to teaching the next generation how to eat lies somewhere between the clip-round-the-ear of the 70s and the there-there approach of 2019. So some rules:

1) If you think you or your child has an allergy to a particular food, go and get tested; otherwise, do not tell us you are allergic. “Allergic” is not a synonym for “I don’t like”.

2) Do not say you are vegetarian if you eat animals.

3) Do not say you are vegan if you eat any animal products – that includes milk and eggs.

4) Try new food, and encourage your children to do the same. And if they don’t want to, there’s nothing wrong with the little ones being told there is no other option and skipping a meal.

And 5) If you are eating out with friends and are not allergic, vegetarian or vegan, then don’t say you are. Point at the menu instead and try something new. The owner of the restaurant will thank you. And the rest of us may just stop thinking you’re a little bit stupid.