Parental work stress hits healthy eating

During an economic downslide, with fewer jobs, people end up working harder and sacrificing more to stay employed, which hits their own and their family’s nutrition, according to a survey.

Of the 3,709 parents of adolescents surveyed by researchers led by Katherine Bauer, assistant professor of public health at the Temple University, only 64 percent of fathers and 46 percent of mothers were employed full-time.

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,” said Bauer, according to a Temple statement.

When looking at the role of work-life stress, for both moms and dads greater stress levels appeared to interfere with healthful eating opportunities.

For example, parents experiencing high levels of work-life stress reported having one and a half fewer family meals per
week and eating half a serving less of fruits and vegetables per day, as compared to parents with low levels of work-life stress.

Bauer noted that over time these differences can add up to have a big impact on parents’ and children’s health. She’s careful to note, however, that the burden of this problem did not fall solely on mothers.

“We need to teach kids how to cook,” said Bauer. “We know if kids have cooking skills and good eating habits, not only will they be healthier, but as adults they will put those skills to use to feed their own children more healthfully.”

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