Young parents may let healthy lifestyle slip: study

Thu Apr 14, 2011 2:18am EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - For harried young parents, this will come as no surprise -- a study has found that having small children can make it tougher to keep up healthy diet and exercise habits.

More than 1,500 young U.S. adults were surveyed for the study, published in "Pediatrics," which found that parents of children aged 5 or younger generally exercised less often than people without children, while mothers in particular had less healthy eating habits than their childless peers.

"Although many dietary behaviors were the same between parents and nonparents, mothers reported greater consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, total energy, and percent saturated fat compared to women without children," wrote lead researcher Jerica Berge, of the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis.

"Both mothers and fathers had lower amounts of physical activity than nonparents."

Of the participants, 25 years old on average, 149 had a child -- in most cases, an infant.

On average, the parents got less exercise than their childless peers, with mothers reporting fewer than 2.5 hours of moderate-to-vigorous exercise each week compared to an average of just over three hours for women without children.

Fathers got less than 5.5 hours each work, versus almost 7 hours among men with no children.

Similarly, a lack of time and energy is likely to increase reliance on "quick-fix" meals that tend to be higher in calories and fat, such as macaroni and cheese or chicken nuggets.

When it came to diet, fathers did not differ from other men. But mothers averaged close to 400 more daily calories than women without children, drank more sugary beverages and consumed slightly more saturated fat.   Continued...