Parenting: Stress hurts healthy eating

June 26, 2012 at 9:45 AM
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PHILADELPHIA, June 26 (UPI) -- Parents with high levels of work-life stress report having fewer family meals per week and eating fewer fruits and vegetables per day, U.S. researchers say.

Lead author Katherine Bauer, of Temple University's Center for Obesity Research and Education, said the study involved 3,709 parents of adolescents surveyed by the researchers -- many of whom were from a racial or ethnic minority group and lower income.

The study, published online in Social Science and Medicine, found parents experiencing high levels of work-life stress reported having one-and-a-half fewer family meals per week and eating one-half a serving less of fruits and vegetables per day, compared to parents with low levels of work-life stress.

Bauer said over time these differences can add up to have a big impact on parents' and children's health.

"Our work underlined the need to take into account the competing pressures that so many families -- especially those that are lower income -- are experiencing," Bauer said in a statement.

Mothers employed full-time "reported fewer family meals, more frequent fast food for family meals, less frequent encouragement of their adolescents' healthful eating, lower fruit and vegetable intake and less time spent on food preparation, compared to part-time and not-employed mothers, Bauer said.

Full-time employed fathers reported significantly fewer hours of food preparation than part-time or non-working fathers, but regardless of employment, mothers spent more hours on food preparation than fathers, Bauer said.

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