Facebook Pixel

Childfree Couples Eat More Healthfully Than Parents

By HERWriter Guide
Rate This
Diet & Nutrition related image Photo: Getty Images

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.

Tell Us
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?

Add a Comment2 Comments

How did parents 100 years ago manage without all the over processed (junk) foods of today. If it's not in the house, then they know there's no point in asking!!! Believe me, I am no domestic goddess. There have been days when it's been 7pm before my poor children have sat down to a dinner. Fish, chicken, some red meats, veg/fruit, seeds, nuts & grains. I made my kids eat them from the very start. I insisted on fish dinners minimum twice a week. They LOVE fish & I always have. Funny how that shocks people! They go crazy for olives, gherkins and seeds (sesame, sunflower etc). I am no size 0 (generous portion sizes!), I would be about 30-35lbs overweight but my kids are in their normal weight ranges. I have no-one to blame if my family do not eat healthy. I do the shopping, I cook meals. I try to plan meals a week ahead. Like Sunday roasts become Monday leftovers. Tues & thurs: fish days- poached or in a pie or grilled. Wednesdays can be spicy grilled chicken with all the veg trimmings or maybe Lasagne, loaded with veggies (freeze leftovers). Friday can be casserole, guess what's for dinner on Saturday? Healthy doesn't mean complicated, expensive & time consuming!!! I think that has a lot to do with why a lot of people opt for the convenience of junk food, mostly they're afraid it will be complicated & take too long to cook. Test yourself for a month with eating healthier, change recipes to make them easier, some might even be surprised at what their kids WILL eat. Dear God your kids are going to whine & cry!!! Let them, be cruel to be kind, there really is a lot to that old saying. Just pray your nerves hold out! No child likes to go hungry & it's hard not to give in but something has to give. Childfree couples? Please! They work, go home, stare & smile at each other, have great social lives (I am moderately jealous of that bit) & have greater disposable incomes. Like us parents didn't already know that! So, does that mean it's safe to assume, that it's easier to afford, prepare & eat healthy with all that free time childfree couples seem to have? Of course it's easier for them!!! But let’s be honest, no-one said being a parent was a stroll in the park, if anything the opposite & I wouldn't swap my 'challenging' life for the easy one if it came draped in diamonds. So go on you childfree couples enjoy your super healthy eating because once parenthood arrives to wake you up, then the challenge begins - Can you maintain your super healthy eating habits????

January 14, 2011 - 7:18pm
EmpowHER Guest

ok I think that most children are pretty spoiled when it comes to what they will and wont eat. It is a whole lot of work to make them eat healthier and listen to their constant whining. The other day my 10 yr old daughter looked at me and said" can't we just for once be like normal families and have junk food for dinner." I cook a lot of veggies and my kids still manage if I do not watch their plate, to sneak away and leave those veggies on the plate. It is frustrating, and it is the rare child who does not prefer pizza and mac n cheese to grilled veggies and fish. I can see why tired parents who just want to feel like they did thier job and gave their kid some dinner would opt for junk instead of healthy food. Yes parents should do the healthy thing but it is difficult.

January 13, 2011 - 5:25pm
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Diet & Nutrition

Get Email Updates

Diet & Nutrition Guide

Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!