Having children does NOT encourage parents to eat more healthily
Couples 'may be influenced by fussy children'



10:12 GMT, 1 May 2012

Parents are known for nagging their children to eat their greens, but a new study has found they don't apply their healthy eating advice to their own plates.

Despite good intentions, researchers found that juggling schedules, pressure on family finances and fussy children can all stop couples from improving their diets.

Parents may not improve their diets as they are influenced by fussy children

Parents may not improve their diets as they are influenced by fussy children

Study author Dr Helena Laroche from the Univerty of Iowa, said: ' We found that parenthood does not have
unfavorable effects on parent's diets but neither does it lead to
significant improvements compared to non-parents, as health
practitioners would hope.

'In fact, parents lag behind their
childless counterparts in decreasing their intake of saturated fat, and
their overall diet remains poor.'

The study evaluated the diets of 2,563 adults enrolled in a study to identify the development of coronary risk factors in young adults. The study measured the dietary change from the first year, 1985-1986, to year seven (1992-1993). None of the subjects had children in the home at the baseline year.

Researchers found that percent saturated fat decreased among both groups, but parents showed a smaller decrease of 1.6 per cent compared to 2.1 per cent for non-parents.

There were no statistically significant differences in change in caloric, fruit and vegetable, sugar sweetened beverage, or fast food intakes.

Parents decreased their saturated fat intake by 1.6% compared to 2.1% lower intake by non-parents.

'A variety of factors may explain this,' said Dr Laroche.

'Finding foods that children like and request has been described by parents as one of the major factors influencing purchasing decisions. Given that marketing strategies to US children focus on high fat, high sugar foods, these requests are often for less healthy foods.'

Dr Laroche concluded further study was needed, but education could be key.

'The transition to parenthood may be a teachable moment for dieticians and health practitioners to educate adults not only on child nutrition or nutrition for pregnancy, but on changing diet patterns for the whole family as well,' she said.

The research is published online today in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.