Researchers at the University of California have found that adolescents are more likely to eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day if their parents do. In contrast, teenagers whose parents consume fast food and fizzy drinks are more likely to do the same.
A survey of thousands of teenagers revealed that:
- Teens whose parents drink soft fizzy drinks every day are nearly 40 percent more likely to drink fizzy drinks themselves than teens whose parents do not drink fizzy drinks
- Teens whose parents eat five servings of fruit and vegetables daily are 16 percent more likely to do the same than teens whose parents who do not eat five servings a day
- Nearly half of adolescents (48 percent) whose parents drink fizzy drinks every day eat fast food at least once a day, while only 39 percent of teens whose parents who do not drink fizzy drinks eat fast food once daily
- 45 percent of teens whose parents do not eat five servings of fruit and vegetables daily eat fast food at least once a day, while only 39 percent of teens whose parents eat five servings a day eat fast food at least once daily
“The research shows us that one of the keys to solving the teen obesity crisis starts with parents, but we must also improve the abysmal food environments in many low-income communities,” said Dr Robert K. Ross, president and chief executive officer of the California endowment. “While parents are the primary role models for their children and their behaviour can positively – or negatively – influence their children’s health, it is also essential that local officials representing low-income communities work to expand access to fruit, vegetables and other healthful foods”.
Educating parents about healthy food choices, as well as how to plan and prepare healthier meals, would help in rducing teenage obesity, according to the authors of the policy brief.
They also recommend employment policies that promote a better work-life balance. Given more flexible working hours, more families might have time to prepare food at home and engage more often in family meals – an activity that has been linked to healthier lifestyles.
For more information on courses available on choosing and preparing healthy food for your children see Healthy Cooking for Your Children.
Jane Philpott, Cooking for Health