Teen obesity starts with parents

Healthy eating starts at home, but few studies have been done on the diet habits of teens.

Are they more apt to make their own food decisions, or are they still influenced by what mom and dad are eating?

I'll have what you're having

Recent research says the latter is true--and that obesity in teens is directly linked to their parents' eating habits. The UCLA policy brief found that adolescents are more likely to get the recommended daily serving of fruits and vegetables if their parents do, and that when parents drink more soda or eat fast food, teens will too.

According to the study, only about 38 percent of adolescents get five or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables, but that 62 percent drink soda every day and 43 percent eat fast food.

"Good dietary habits start at home," said Susan H. Babey, co-author of the policy brief. "If parents are eating poorly, chances are their kids are too."

Parents vs. environment

The brief, which drew upon data from the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), found that teens are 16 percent more likely to eat five servings of fruits and veggies every day if their parents do. And while education about healthy eating is a parental responsibility, the availability of fast food is a growing environmental factor that can be hard to avoid. Dr. Robert K. Ross, president and chief executive officer of the California Endowment, elaborates:

"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. Parents are the primary role models for their children and their behavior 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 fruits, vegetables and other healthful foods."

The researchers also note how employment policies that promote a better work-life balance could be useful in helping parents promote healthier habits, as lack of flexibility in work scheduling has been linked to lower rates of home-based food preparation or family meal times.

Source: Science Daily

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