I knew it! If it weren’t for my kids I’d be a perfect (?) size 0 and I’d be doing that whole organic, whole grain, vegan-fussing-over-carbs thing! Well, not really, although I was not the best eater in the first three years of having three children. I ate too many processed foods, even as a devout vegetarian. Like many other mothers, it took me awhile to get back into the grove of eating like I did before having kids.
Results from the British government, that took nutritional information regarding the grocery purchases of over 7,000 families and were compiled to compare the eating habits of the English show that apparently, I’m not alone.
The results showed that the more well-off the family, the better they ate, with a diet including vegetables and fruit, as well as meat. Younger households (age-wise) tended to eat more fats and sweets, with older households seeing a decline in those kinds of foods.
But some were taken aback by the finding that one group who ate more healthily than another group were child-free couples, as opposed to parents. As a parent (and former longtime childless person!), this does not seem remarkable at all despite some reactions to the findings as “surprising”. Couples without children were not just healthy eaters by a small margin. The findings saw that they ate on average 4.4 pounds more of vegetables and fruits over a two-week period than parents. One economic professor from the University of Reading said that “For whatever reason, the social dynamic in a household with children makes the diet on average more unhealthy”.
Again, it’s surprising at all the surprise! For “whatever reason” seems pretty obvious to parents although at the end of it all, we parents need to make a better effort at eating more healthfully.
Generally speaking, double-income-no-kids couples (DINKS, as we used to be called) have more money and can afford to spend more on really good veggie and fruit options, especially all that delicious out-of-season fare that unfortunately can cost an arm and a leg. While it’s not always correct to say that it’s more expensive to eat healthy foods (a lot of the time it’s really not, if you put a little work and coupons into it), fruits and certain veggies can sky rocket during the winter months and farmer’s markets often shut down during these times, leaving us dependent on fresh produce from warmer states, or foreign shores. With warmer states seeing colder temperatures in the winter and even snow storms that ruin crops, we’re spending even more to get this produce from countries in South America.
DINKs also have more time to prepare and enjoy their meals, rather than the harried 10 minutes families often have to down a meal before taking off to do other things. Families (with children or otherwise) that eat together at a table tend to enjoy their food better and consume healthier options – two choices that make for better health. Parents need to reassess their homes in order to have more family dinners and offer healthier meals. Freezing healthy meals in bulk is a great time saver and greatly limiting meal choices is also a time saver. Picking out their meal choice should be a treat allowed at restaurants and not at home. Dessert for all of us should be a treat, not a staple. If we parents and our kids were really honest, we all know that we have time to sit down for a meal together at least 3-4 days a week and that far too much “busy” time is actually spent playing video games, applications and watching TV.
Children shouldn’t decide the household grocery list. Saying no to sugary cereals and processed junk is pretty easy when we mothers put our big girl pants on and advise our children that they’re at the grocery store with us because Supernanny called in sick, not because their wise input is necessary! Treats for kids can also be healthy, including organic yogurts (in the bulk containers, not the insanely expensive tubes) seasonal fruit, bulk nuts, raisins and whole grain cereals. In fact, mix all of the above and you get a healthy meal made for a Queen!
Family life is indeed very busy these days and most of us are doing everything we can do to the right thing by our children. But we parents can’t rest on our laurels and blame our bad diets on our kids. We are the buyers in our homes and if we’re parenting the right way, we are the decision makers. We also lead by example. Healthy parents are more likely to have healthy kids.
This study was featured in last month’s issue of the European Review of Agricultural Economics.
Do you find that you eat less healthily since becoming a parent? If you aren’t a parent, do you think you eat better foods than your peers with kids?