Study: Parents Are Heavier Than Their Childless Counterparts

Study: Parents Are Heavier Than Their Childless Counterparts


One would think that having children and all the running after them, bending and picking up would make a parent more fit, however a new study has found that mothers of young children actually are heavier and consume more calories daily then their childless counterparts.

However, most parents average age 25 or older know that finding time to exercise gets increasingly harder after children enter the family. Parents also often find themselves eating more unhealthy convenience foods because of lack of time and such.

The researchers found that the mothers ate about the same amount of fruit, whole grains and fiber as women without children. But they also ate more saturated fat and total calories than women without children.

The moms had an average of 2,360 calories daily, 368 calories more than women without children. As well, they drank about seven sugary drinks weekly, versus about four among childless women.

Mothers had a slightly higher average body-mass index than childless women, or 27 versus 26. Healthy BMIs are in the 19-24 range.

Calculating BMI is one of the best methods for population assessment of overweight and obesity. Because calculation requires only height and weight, it is inexpensive and easy to use for clinicians and for the general public. The use of BMI allows people to compare their own weight status to that of the general population.

As for the fathers, they ate about the same amount of calories per day as the childless men and both had an average BMI of about 25. But the fathers got less physical activity, about five hours weekly, compared to almost seven hours among childless men.

Pediatricians and health care providers may want to consider discussing dietary intake and physical activity with new parents to identify ways to engage in healthful behaviors given the daily demands of parenthood, both to improve parents’ own health and to help them model healthful behavior for their children.

Study leader Dr. Jessica Berge with the University of Minnesota said:

“Parents were drinking more sugar sweetened drinks, they had higher fat intake and overall calories. Because of time demands, they might be turning to the chicken nuggets or the macaroni and cheese because it’s quicker. They were no different than non-moms on fruits and vegetable and whole grains. So my line of thought is they are trying to eat the right foods and trying to set the good example, but at the same time they are eating more of these fast foods like chicken nuggets because they take less time to cook.”

The data comes from the university’s Project EAT, a longitudinal study that has followed kids from middle school into high school and young adulthood. This latest report tracked the eating and exercise patterns of nearly 1,600 women and men.

Project EAT was designed to investigate the factors influencing eating habits of adolescents, to determine if youth are meeting national dietary recommendations, and to explore dieting and physical activity patterns among youth. Through a greater understanding of the socioenvironmental, personal, and behavioral factors associated with diet and other weight-related behaviors during adolescence more effective nutrition interventions can be developed.

Berge continues:

“Their dietary intake was still different, and so the higher amounts of the unhealthy foods and nutrients are still going to be a problem in the future if they still maintain that level. It’s still going to contribute to weight in the long run or unhealthy dietary patterns.”

Sources: University of Minnesota School of Public Health and The Journal of Pediatrics


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