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Higher Saturated-fat Intake Seen in Adults with Children

Aug 16, 2012

Data on more than 2,000 young adults showed that those who were parents tended to consume more saturated fat than those who did not have children…. 

Researchers said parents of younger children were also more likely to opt for convenience foods.

When people think about having children, they often talk about how they can be good role models for their kids, including maintaining a healthier diet. Yet most parents admit they let healthy eating slide sometimes when they feel like they don’t have time.

According to one of the first studies of its kind to look at parental eating habits, that’s often the case with new parents. Despite their best intentions, most do not improve their diets after their children are born. In fact, the study found parents eat more saturated fat than people who aren’t parents. A diet high in saturated fat can lead to obesity, high cholesterol, heart attacks and type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Helena Laroche, the lead author on the study stated that, "Parents of younger children do tend to bring in more convenience foods into the home more often and that may account for the difference in saturated fat intake."

The study examined data collected in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults cohort study, which followed more than 2,000 young adults for 20 years. Her research focused on the first seven years of a new parent’s life, comparing how often they ate and what they ate to the eating habits of people without children.

It asked people to document how much saturated fat was in their diet, how many fruits and vegetables they ate, how often they went out for fast food, and how much soda and juice they consumed. Other than with saturated fat intake, parents’ diets were similar to those people without kids. "Ultimately, neither had the ideal diet at the end of seven years," Laroche said. Still, Laroche said, parents should know that what they choose to eat sends powerful messages to their children.

"The big takeaway from our study is that we really do want parents to be better role models for their children when it comes to healthy eating," she said.

Practice Pearls:
  • New parents may feel they don’t have time to eat healthy meals
  • A study shows parents eat more saturated fat than people without children
  • Expert: What parents choose to eat sends a message to children

Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. August 2012